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  1. ITV Report

Military dog who lost her leg in Afghanistan awarded highest war medal for animals

A military dog who lost her leg in Afghanistan has been awarded the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Lucca instantly lost her front left leg and suffered severe burns to her chest when an improvised explosive device detonated in 2012.

The 12-year-old German Shepherd had successfully completed more than 400 missions during her six years serving with US Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Her skills helped save the lives of "thousands of allied troops", the US Marines said, with no human casualties during any of her patrols.

Lucca with her medal. Credit: PDSA
Lucca served six years with the US Marines. Credit: PDSA
Lucca's owner Chris Willingham with the heroic dog. Credit: Today

Now retired, Lucca, flew in from her home in California with her owner, Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham, to receive the Dickin Medal in honour of her work at a ceremony in London on Tuesday.

Her handler, Corporal Juan Rodriguez described the moment a "huge explosion" left him fearing the worst for the dog.

"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," Rodriguez said.

CPL Juan Rodriguez with Lucca as she recovered. Credit: Today

"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."

Lucca will be awarded the honour by the charity’s director general, Jan McLoughlin who hailed the dog's "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty".

  • What is the Dickin Medal?
The medal Lucca will receive. Credit: PDSA

The medal is awarded by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) charity in honour of animals' work and bravery during conflict.

Since its introduction in 1943, it has been awarded to:

31
dogs (including Lucca)
32
World War Two messenger pigeons
3
horses
1
cat