Lucca, a Marine Corps dog who lost a leg sniffing out bombs, will join the ranks of Winkie the carrier pigeon, Regal the war horse and Diesel the French police dog as a recipient of the prestigious Dickin Medal. The medal is the world’s highest military decoration for animals, and it has only been awarded 67 times since 1943.

“Lucca’s conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty makes her a hugely deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin medal,” said the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), the British charity that awards the Dickin medal. “Her ability and determination to seek out arms and explosives preserved human life amid some of the world’s fiercest military conflicts.”

During her military service, Lucca participated in 400 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 12-year-old German Shepherd’s duties mostly involved rooting out improvised explosive devices with her handlers before they could harm any troops. During her entire military service, there were no human casualties during Lucca’s patrols.

But while on patrol with Cpl. Juan Rodriguez in Afghanistan in 2012, Lucca was hit by a hidden bomb. Rodriguez told PDSA that the canine hero was gravely wounded in the blast.

“The explosion was huge and I immediately feared the worst for Lucca,” Rodriguez said. “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.”

Lucca was evacuated to Germany and subsequently retired from military service. Now she lives with her other handler, Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Willingham, with whom she is enjoying a comfortable retirement 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.”

Congratulations, Lucca. Semper Fi.

[The Guardian]