A U.S. Marine dog named Lucca has been honored with the highest gallantry medal reserved for animals. The brave canine lost one of her legs and suffered grievous injuries during the last of her 400 missions in war-torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. She has never lost a single soldier in any of her missions or let anyone get in harm’s way by expertly sniffing out thousands of explosives cleverly hidden to cause maximum damage.
U.S. military dog Lucca, who lost her leg while on duty in Afghanistan, has become the first canine to be awarded the animal equivalent of a British Victoria Cross. Despite being just 12-years-old, the well-trained, pure-bred German shepherd spent six years on active duty serving in the U.S. military. Deployed to sniff out explosives, Lucca successfully completed over 400 missions and was actively involved in protecting the lives of thousands of allied troops during her illustrious career.
Lucca received the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Dickin Medal. She was flown to London to be honored at the Wellington Barracks in London. The German shepherd is the first Marine Corps dog to receive the medal. The award is considered the top honor for war animals around the world, reported Sky News. Her current handler, Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham, accepted the award with Lucca and said it was an “incredible honor” to receive the award from the veterinary charity.
“It is very humbling to be part of this entire process. I think more importantly is that Lucca’s accomplishments are going to help bring awareness and recognition to all our military working dogs and their handlers.”
Lucca’s dedication to the service is quite evident from the fact that she never missed a single improvised explosive device (IED) planted by insurgents or terrorists. In her six-year career span, Lucca hasn’t failed once and always managed to foil an attempt to inflict damage using crude bombs and was considered one of the finest canines. Not a single human casualty was reported during any of her missions. On her final mission in Afghanistan, Lucca managed to unearth a large IED but, before the search could end, was hit with another explosive device that was hidden nearby. Besides the IEDs, Lucca has been credited with helping in the capture of four insurgents.
In 2012, Lucca was deployed in Afghanistan, an active war zone, along with her handler Corporal Juan Rodriguez. They were out on maneuvers in the Helmand Province when Lucca’s keen canine senses picked up a scent of an IED. The dog swiftly took off, but before she could expertly zero-in on the carefully hidden bomb, a 30-pound IED, another bomb in the vicinity exploded.
Even during her last mission, Lucca didn’t allow her handler to suffer. While Rodriguez suffered minor injuries, Lucca’s front left leg was blown off and she suffered severe burns to her chest, reported the Telegraph. It is nothing short of a miracle that no soldiers were grievously injured, but Lucca’s days as a United States Marine bomb-sniffing dog were over. Cpl. Rodriguez never left Lucca’s side and ensured the dog was recovered and sent to the medics.
“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.”
Within just 10 days, the brave dog was back on her feet and began learning to walk with three legs. However, at no point did she lose her poise and composure, added Rodriguez.
“Through all of her treatment, and despite the pain she was in, her temperament never changed. Her fighting spirit was plain to see and I was so proud of how quickly she recovered.”
The Marine dog was honored with PDSA, which has been previously bestowed upon a few dozen dogs, a few World War II messenger pigeons, as well as three horses and a cat. Lucca is the 67th animal to be honored with the medal, which is reserved for those who show exceptional service in a military conflict, reported the Daily Mail.
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