Lucca, a German Shepherd, received a PDSA Dicken Medal. This award has only been given out 66 times since 1943. She completed 400 missions in six years of active service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Lucca’s trainer and first handler, Gunnery Sgt. Christoper Willingham, said that her personality was perfect for the job. They were paired together on the 23rd of April 2006. She was trained for over a year and became a specialised search dog. During the six years of active service, she has helped save thousands of troops. Not a single life was lost under her watch.
On the 23rd of March 2012, she was leading a patrol. Lucca indicated that she found an explosive. She then started to look for more in the area, but sadly a second explosive detonated and as a result, poor Lucca lost her leg and suffered severe burns to her chest. Her handler at the time, Corporal Juan Rodrigues, saved her life. The brave dog was treated just like one of the marines and was picked up and run back 100 meters to the tree line. She went through the same procedures as any other marine. Rodriguez stayed with her during her surgery and all through her recovery.
Where is she now?
Since the accident, Lucca received the prestigious PDSA Dicken Medal (the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross for bravery) and retired. She was adopted by Chris and lived with him and his family in California. She became an ambassador for the Military Working Dog community and brought awareness to the service and sacrifice of all of the military working dogs. Sadly, in January this year, Lucca passed away at the age of 13. Chris and Juan were with her until the end.
Above: Chris and Lucca in all her glory!
Above: Chris (left) and Juan (right) with beautiful Lucca.
Above: Lucca enjoying retirement.
What a beautiful and brave dog. Rest in peace Lucca. Your legacy will live on.
Photo credits: Lucca K458