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Newly-Adopted Rescue Dog Saves Owner From Fatal Mudslide

Written by: Molly Weinfurter
Molly Weinfurter is a writer for iHeartDogs, and she’s passionate about helping animals in need. She volunteers for Bailing Out Benji and a local dog rescue.Read more
| Published on October 25, 2021

Most dog parents will agree that their furry friends have changed their lives for the better. But not many can say that their dog saved them from a near-death experience. Pierpaolo Paradisi had only recently adopted his dog Leo when a dangerous storm broke out in Vernazza, Italy.

Amid the storm, Paradisi was only moments away from driving into a deadly landslide. However, Leo quickly stopped him in the most unusual way. If Paradisi hadn’t had his rescue dog by his side, he wouldn’t be alive today. Now, he owns a charming hotel named after the heroic canine.

Leo the rescue dog

Finding the Perfect Dog

Paradisi moved to the Italian region of Liguria 15 years ago. He fell in love with the seaside towns and soon dreamed of creating his own hotel in the area. During a massive renovation project, he decided he wanted a dog. He already had seven cats, but he loved the idea of a small dog that could travel with him.

He worked with a group of animal rights activists, who regularly brought stray and at-risk animals from other countries to Italy. They rescued Leo from Serbia, but he was the only pup they were able to save out of a group of 48 dogs. The poor pup’s biological mother and sister were killed right in front of him. But since Paradisi chose to save a dog in need, Leo got a second chance at life.

Dog on outdoor bench

Leo arrived in Liguria on September 25th, 2011, but a month later, a dangerous storm broke out. Paradisi didn’t feel comfortable leaving Leo home alone, so he brought the pup to work with him. He ignored the office’s “no pets” policy. But when heavy rain, hail, and thunder broke out, he decided to leave work early and drive home.

“Even in the first mile, it changed — I’d never seen it worsen like that before,” Paradisi said. “There was a tornado of water that hit the mountains, and I couldn’t even see a meter ahead. I had vision of about 30 centimeters, so was driving extremely slowly.”

Dog riding in vehicle

Rescue Dog Returns the Favor

As Paradisi drove cautiously down the road, Leo sat quietly in the back seat for the 17-mile journey. But then, as the car neared a cliff, the pup scooted closer and closer to his dad. Just before the vehicle passed the cliff, Leo hopped into Paradisi’s lap.

“He leaped into the front and onto my knees, so I had to stop,” said Paradisi. “I was angry — I said, ‘Leo, I’m driving.'”

Dog on waterfront trail

Yet, Paradisi’s anger quickly turned into fear when he saw the cliff come down in front of him. A mudslide swept past his car, nearly touching the front of it. The landslide took out the asphalt and the guard rail. There’s no way Paradisi and Leo would have survived. Paradisi was in shock, but he turned around and drove as far in the other direction as he could.

He didn’t put two and two together until after the horrific incident. He finally realized that if Leo hadn’t been in the car with him, the landslide would’ve killed him. The two of them had to sleep in the car overnight since their home was blocked by the collapse, but Paradisi was just grateful they were both alive.


Welcome to Leo’s Lodge!

Luckily, Paradisi’s home wasn’t damaged by the storm, but it was difficult for him to get back to it afterward. All his cats had escaped amid the chaos, but somehow, they all returned home within the next few months. 13 people died due to the natural disaster, and many buildings were destroyed.

After seeing his life flash before his eyes, Paradisi decided it was time to follow through with his hotel dream. Today, he lives with Leo on a cliffside property surrounded by hotel and apartment rentals that he owns. One of the properties is called Leo’s Lodge in honor of his special rescue dog. He calls the area “The Heart of Cinque Terre.”

Dog relaxing on couch

Leo is well-known around the hotel. He greets guests, and his face is used in many of the decorations. Leo even won an award for the Premio Internazionale Fedeltà del Cane, which means “international prize for dog loyalty.”

As lovely as Cinque Terre is, Paradisi knows it can be a dangerous place. He always takes extra precautions when there’s a storm warning just to be safe. Leo is 14 years old now, so Paradisi knows he doesn’t have much time left with him. But he said as much as he’ll miss his loyal companion, he will definitely rescue another dog in the future. After all, Leo rescued him in return.

Dog on orange couch

Featured Image: Facebook

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