Lupo and Nuvola (Wolf and Cloud), a couple of shaggy white Maremma sheepdogs who were born and raised in the ill-fated hotel, were initially feared to have perished in Wednesday’s tragedy.
But they were found on Thursday ambling along a road in Villa Cupoli, a hamlet four kilometres (2.5 miles) away, according to resident Martina Rossi, who worked at the hotel but was not there when the avalanche struck.
“I saw them in the street about 9.30 pm on Thursday night, and my heart started beating very fast,” the 19-year-old told AFP. “I called their names and they recognized me, I was so happy. I have no idea how they got there.”
With the hotel owner among the people missing under the ruins, the dogs have been taken in by another local resident who had just adopted a litter of puppies Nuvola had recently given birth to.
Also known as the Maremmano, the Abruzzo sheepdog breed is known for its photogenic appearance with the puppies resembling furry Polar bear cubs.
Their white coats are the result of selective breeding in their native regions of Abruzzo and the Tuscan Maremma. The colour enabled them to blend in with sheep flocks they were assigned to protect from wolves.