A 12-year-old German Shepherd has been honored with a People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Dickin Medal on April 5 after she was injured while serving in Afghanistan.
Lucca, who completed more than 400 missions with the US Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan, was presented with her medal at Wellington Barracks in London.
The medal represents “the highest award any animal in the world can achieve while serving in military conflict,” according to PDSA.
Lucca, who was trained to “sniff out munitions and explosives” was injured on her final patrol on March 23, 2012. As she hunted for explosives with her handler Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, an Improvized Explosive De detonated underneath Lucca, resulting in the loss of her leg, the site reported.
PDSA said “her skills as a search and rescue dog protected the lives of thousands of troops.”
Rodriguez, who never left Lucca’s side through all of her emergency treatment and recovery said:
The explosion was huge and I immediately feared the worst for Lucca. I ran to her and saw her struggling to get up. I picked her up and ran to the shelter of a nearby tree line; applied a tourniquet to her injured leg and called the medics to collect us. I stayed with her constantly throughout her operation and her recovery. She had saved my life on so many occasions – I had to make sure that I was there for her when she needed me.
Lucca is now retired and lives with Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham, who she served with in Afghanistan, and his family in California.
“Lucca is very intelligent, loyal and had an amazing drive for work as a search dog. She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her…Today, I do my best to keep her spoiled in her well-deserved retirement,” Willingham said.
Lucca became the 67th recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal. She is also the first U.S. Marine Corps dog to receive the esteemed honor, according to PDSA officials.