The incredible hero dogs of Italy’s earthquake

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Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
12:03 CEST+02:00
For 40 minutes before an earthquake struck central Italy in the early hours of last Wednesday, a pet dog, living with its family in Poggio Castellano, a hamlet near Amatrice, kept barking.

Lucia Deleri and her husband, who were at home with their five-year-old son, were woken up by the anxious four-month-old Pit Bull, called Mafia.

“She was jumping around, barking and crying, we didn’t know why,” Deleri told The Local.

“We heard other dogs barking in the area but didn’t think it could be for anything like this. We tried to sleep again but she just kept on barking.”

Then the 6.0-6.2 magnitude earthquake struck at 3.36am, completely destroying the historic centre of nearby Amatrice, the Lazio town famous for the Amatriciana pasta dish. At least 291 were killed in the quake, which also affected nearby hamlets as well as another Lazio town, Accumoli, and Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto, both in the Marche region.

A strong aftershock followed about an hour later.

“We left the house immediately after the first one,” Deleri, who is from Rome but moved to live permanently in Poggio Castellano five years ago, said.

Deleri lost friends in the quake. She has four other children, but all were in Rome at the time.

Their home, which wasn’t affected by the first earthquake, was badly damaged by the many subsequent aftershocks, rendering it unsafe to live in for now.

“We’re living in a tent, but once the repairs are done, we plan to move back in,” Deleri said.

“We’re not afraid to carry on living here.”

Similar stories of hero dogs have emerged in the aftermath of the quake, not least the ones who have been fervently helping rescue workers search the rubble for their loved ones.

Among the most spectacular was the story about Leo, a Labrador who helped find Giorgia, an eight-year-old girl who was buried under her collapsed home in Pescara del Tronto.

The rescue, which occurred 16 hours after the earthquake hit, was described in a video by two policemen, Matteo and Liborio.

“Yesterday, we were told that under a collapsed two-storey building in Pescara del Tronto, there were two missing girls,” Matteo said.

“We went straight there and Leo, as soon as he got going, within less than 40 seconds, gave us a strong signal. With our colleagues from the Reparto Mobile Senigallia and firemen, we dug with our hands for nine hours, and in the end we found the girl alive.”

A German Shepherd called Sarotti also helped find a trapped 10-year-old girl in Amatrice after her pyjamas were spotted in an area the dog had sniffed out.

A video was also captured of the heartwarming moment a dog trapped beneath the rubble was reunited with its owner.

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Rescue dogs have continued to assist in the effort to find bodies in the days following the earthquake.

But many have been left homeless, and ownerless.

“There are dogs crying for their owners, they can sense fully well that they are now longer there,” Deleri said.

A funding page has been set up for the earthquake’s displaced animals. Leads, collars, bowls, food, blankets and gloves are also needed. Please click here for more information.

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