The story of the rescuer dog in the Cinque Terre.

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Everyone in Cinque Terre has a story to tell about that terrible day. One of the most extraordinary comes from a local hotel owner, Pierpaolo Paradisi. Ten years ago, the Italian area of Cinque Terre was hit by a deadly flood. Thirteen people were killed, and many more lost property and possessions.

In the Yugoslav war, people had to abandon their pets. Looking at Facebook over the summer, Pierpaolo Paradisi read about a group of animal rights activists — Serbian models who brought stray cats and dogs to Italy every time they came over for work. Wanting to help the animals, he sent the group a message, asking them to choose a dog for him. They picked a little, tan-colored dog from Belgrade. Leo, as Paradisi would name him, arrived in Liguria on September 25, 2011.

A month later, although dogs were banned from his office, he decided to take his new pet to work. A storm was already brewing in the area, and he was uncomfortable leaving the dog at home.”It was a transgression that saved my life,” he says.

By the time the pair got to La Spezia, the storm had already started — heavy rain, thunder and hail. Paradisi decided to leave early, fearing the weather would only get worse.

Paradisi had put Leo in the back of his car for the 17-mile journey, and for most of it, the dog had sat there in silence. Getting closer and closer to Prevo, as the car wound round the cliff, Leo made his move.”He leapt into the front and onto my knees, so I had to stop,” says Paradisi.

“I was angry — I said, ‘Leo, I’m driving.'” At that moment — just as he was trying to move the dog off his lap, and get going again — the cliff fell away in front of them.

Thirteen people were killed in the 2011 disaster. In this way Paradisi is convinced that Leo saved both their lives.

Today, their house is a cliffside hotel, with self-catering apartments, and the pair are inseparable.

Paradisi has named the property Leo’s Lodge, and a tile of a dog is attached proudly to the door.

Leo plays the consummate host, greeting guests, accompanying them to their rooms, and carrying out regular security patrols of the property, which sits right on the main footpath, and has tourists walking by every minute.

He goes with Paradisi every afternoon to pick up guests from nearby Corniglia in their Jeep. Meanwhile, Leo’s fame has spread far and wide. In 2012, the year following the flood, he was awarded the top prize in the Premio Internazionale Fedelt√† del Cane, or international prize for dog loyalty — he was chosen as “first among equals” from 10 equally exceptional dogs.

The tragedy of 10 years ago has had a permanent effect on Paradisi.

Although he stayed in the area, completing his dream of turning the abandoned village of Prevo into a hotel — he now has room for 40 people, between Leo’s Lodge, some apartments and a villa — he’s permanently on alert. Today, Vernazza is back to its sparkling best, beloved by tourists from all over the world.

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