Lucca, a German shepherd became the first Marine Corps Service dog to receive the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PSDA) Dickin Wellington awards this past Tuesday. The German shepherd was honored for her role in the Afghan war where she lost a leg sniffing out a roadside bomb. Lucca participated in hundreds of missions over a span of six years.
Her current handler Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham was openly thrilled for Lucca when he told sky news that it was incredibly honorable for the dog to receive the greatest award honoring heroic animals. To him the recognition by this charity would bring much needed awareness to military working dogs and their handlers who work very hard to save lives in combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Though Lucca suffered career ending injuries she managed to save many people’s lives during her patrols. Her handler at the time, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez noted that despite the pain she was going through, Lucca’s temperament never changed. He reports that the explosion was so big, he feared for the dog’s life as she was struggling to get up when he got to her. Cpl. Juan picked the dog up, and in the shelter of a tree close by applied a tourniquet to her injured leg before calling the medical team for help. The German shepherd was rushed to hospital where she underwent extensive surgeries to save her life. The treatment saved Lucca’s life but unfortunately, she lost a leg in what was the final mission of her sterling career. Lucca’s fighting spirit is so strong that only 10 days after the operation, she was already up and walking. Her current handler who flew to London to accept the award says that now is time to spoil the deserving dog in her retirement.
The director general of the PSDA speaking at the award ceremony said that Lucca was chosen for her gallantry and determination to sniff out weapons in the battle field, efforts which saved many people’s lives amidst one of the worst military conflicts. The medal has been awarded to several animals since it was introduced in 1943. A cat, dozens of dogs, World War II messenger pigeons and three horses have been honored before Lucca. Next in line for the award is a French police dog named Diesel who was killed in raids to capture masterminds of the November 2013 attacks in Paris. The dog will receive this award posthumously later this year.