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Lucca, a German Shepherd Wounded Warrior, Receives Highest Award for Valor

Bomb-sniffing dogs have saved countless lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. One heroic canine, a German Shepherd named Lucca, was honored for her service with the PDSA Dickin Medal.

Lucca successfully completed over 400 missions during her six years of service, detecting munitions caches and roadside bombs during her deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan with her handler. She worked fearlessly, with remarkable energy and drive for searching out these hidden dangers.

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Unfortunately, on her final mission in 2012, Lucca was seriously injured. After alerting her handler to the presence of one IED, she went off in search of others and stepped on a pressure plate bomb. Quick action by her handler and medics saved her life, but she lost one of her legs and suffered severe burns across her chest, forcing her to retire. Even such severe injuries did not keep her down for long, however, and she was walking again within ten days of the blast.

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The PDSA Dickin Medal is a British award originally developed to recognize the courage and sacrifice of animals during World War II. It is the highest award a military animal can receive and is considered equivalent to the Victoria Cross. As of 2016, only 67 animals have received this honor, and 54 of them served in World War II. Their numbers include 32 carrier pigeons used to transmit messages during World War II, 31 dogs, three horses and one cat. An honorary PDSA Dickin Medal was also given to recognize the horses that served during World War I.

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In April 2016 at the age of 12, Lucca became the first Marine dog to receive this award. After her retirement, she went to California to live with her first handler, Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Willingham, and his family.

Military dogs like Lucca are continually serving on the front lines to help save human lives. Service dogs continue to save the lives of veterans after the war, too, but many people in need are unable to get one. Click here to sign a petition urging the VA to start supporting service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

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