A US Marine Corps dog that lost a leg while sniffing out explosives in Afghanistan has been honoured with a prize for animals serving bravely in military conflict.
Lucca, a 12-year-old German Shepherd, won the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of Britain’s Victoria Cross, a decoration for bravery. She is the first US Marine Corps dog to receive the honor.
The dog is credited with saving thousands of allied troops and never had a human casualty on one of her patrols.
On her final patrol in Afghanistan in 2012, she discovered a 13.6-kg improvised explosive device and was searching for more when a second device detonated. Lucca suffered severe burns and lost her left leg, but survived.
Her owner, Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Willingham of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was by her side in London on Tuesday as she received the medal.
The Dickin Medal, founded in 1943, is awarded by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a British veterinary charity.
Lucca was trained by the US Marine Corps as a search dog to sniff out explosives.
Her previous handler, Corporal Juan Rodriguez, recalled the moment she was injured: “The explosion was huge and I immediately feared the worst for Lucca.
“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,” Rodriguez was quoted as saying by the BBC.
Lucca, now retired, completed more than 400 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan during six years of active service. She lives in California with Willingham.