The Heroic Story of Lucca the Military Dog
Currently, there are thousands of service dogs working alongside dedicated men and women in different military branches. Specially trained dogs have been involved in military operations around the world for a long time but were incorporated into the United States military at the start of the Revolutionary War. At that time, dogs were used primarily as pack animals although by World War I, they also helped kill rats in war zone trenches.
By World War II, the value of the service dog became increasingly obvious at which time they began to offer support in several different types of military operations. In the United States alone, over 10,000 highly trained dogs were deployed during the Second World War, holding positions of messengers, scouts, sentries, and mine detectors. Today, service dogs maintain presence within all of the United States military branches, serving nationally and on foreign grounds.
For the most part, Dutch and German shepherds, as well as Belgian Malinois have been used due to their high level of intelligence, loyalty, and aggression. However, these dogs are also true athletes, capable of enduring some of the harshest terrain in the world. Since the beginning of deploying dogs in 1942 until about ten years ago, there have been many dogs killed in the line of duty. If not killed, most dogs were euthanized after service because of their aggressive nature or carrying some type of disease, or simply left behind as “collateral damage”.
Then in 2000, former President Bill Clinton signed a new law whereby both retired military soldiers and civilians had the opportunity to adopt the very service dogs that had been so faithful during war. For many people, that new law created dramatic change in the way that service dogs were viewed. Since that time, several organizations have been founded to assist in bringing dogs back to US soil such as the Military Working Dog Team Support Association or MWDTSA and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or SPCA.
Lucca – The Miracle Dog
Each dog that has served in the United States military and other military divisions around the world are to be applauded for unselfish devotion but there is one in particular that has recently made headlines around the globe. Lucca, a half German shepherd and Belgian Malinois breed joined the United States Marine Corps in 2006 and has been hailed as a true hero.
At just two years of age, she completed extensive training to become a top search dog that would be used for a variety of military operations specific to open areas, roads, vehicles, and buildings in the effort to find ammunition, weapons, and explosives. For her first five years of service, Lucca worked with her initial handler, Gunnery Sergeant Willingham but was then handed off to one of Willingham’s teams working in Afghanistan, Corporal Juan Rodriguez.
Prior to March 2013, Lucca had already provided exemplary service during two Iraq tours of duty in 2007 and 2008 and one Afghanistan tour in 2011. Over that period, this service dog led more than 400 patrols, discovered countless explosive devices, and was directly involved with the apprehension of four insurgents later determined to be Improvised Explosive Device or IED manufacturers that supported numerous terrorist cells in the region.
Lucca’s final mission occurred on March 23, 2013 while out on patrol with her handler Rodriguez and several other Marines. Walking ahead, she indicated the presence of an IED. After being safely detonated, she continued her search for secondary explosives at which time a device went off causing severe burns to her chest and severely injuring her front left leg. Although in horrible condition and extreme pain, her first response was to run to her handler in an attempt to protect him as well as other Marines on the mission.
Immediately, a tourniquet was applied and proper first aid administered. Lucca was then airlifted to the unit’s medical center where she was stabilized before being flown back to Germany and then onto Camp Pendleton. There, she underwent surgery to have her injured leg amputated and completed special physical rehabilitation. To no surprise of her handler or the other Marines whose lives she had saved, Lucca made a miraculous recovery.
Lucca has since turned eight and now resides with her first handler Willingham and his family while enjoy a life of pampering and gratitude. Throughout her service with the United States military, this amazing service dog found over 40 explosive devices and in doing so saved the lives of many men and women working the frontlines. Lucca is more than a brave soldier – she is a miracle dog that while serving with the United States Marine Corps in the ongoing battle against terrorism has won the hearts of millions of people.
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