This gorgeous dog has demonstrated a great deal of bravery during the latter half of her life. Lucca is a member of the Marine Corps, and over the course of her six-year career, she has saved the lives of countless service personnel by sniffing out munitions, including roadside bombs and mines.
Finally, some 400 missions later, Lucca’s bravery and dedication have been rewarded with Britain’s highest military honor, the PDSA Dickin Medal – a first for an American service animal, and only the 67th time it has ever been given.
Lucca’s owner, Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham, says of his faithful companion: “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."
Despite maintaining a clean record of no human casualties during her patrols, Lucca was forced into retirement when, in 2012, a homemade device detonated and resulted in the loss of her leg and extensive chest injuries.
Corporal Juan Rodriguez, Lucca’s handler, was with her through the ordeal: “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."
The German Shepherd's receipt of the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honor, is a testament to her bravery and determination in the face of extreme adversity.