The following is a release from the PDSA:
Lucca, a retired U.S. Marine Corp K-9, has been awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
During her six years of active service, Lucca successfully completed 400 separate missions and her skills as a search and rescue dog protected the lives of thousands of troops. Lucca and her handler were at the front of patrols to ensure the safety of those behind them. Thanks to Lucca’s skills there were no human causalities during any of her patrols.
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On her final patrol on March 23, 2012, an IED detonated underneath Lucca, resulting in the loss of her leg.
“The explosion was huge and I immediately feared the worst for Lucca,” said Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, her handler. “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.”
Through all of her emergency treatment and recovery, Rodriguez never left Lucca’s side.
“Lucca’s story has become famous in the U.S. and I am so pleased that PDSA is honoring her contribution to the military campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. Abby DuBaree from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps
Lucca is now retired and lives with Gunnery Sgt. 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,” Willingham said. “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.”
In a special ceremony at Wellington Barracks, London, Lucca became the 67th recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal. She is the first U.S. Marine Corps dog to receive the esteemed honour.