A hiker who broke his ankle while walking in the Italian Alps and spent seven nights in the forest in freezing temperatures has credited his dog with his survival.
Michele Benedet, 33, was found battered but alive by mountain rescue specialists in the Venzonossa Valley in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of northern Italy.
He had covered himself with a map and piles of leaves and snuggled up to his dog, a mixed breed called Ash, in order to keep warm.
“If I’m alive it’s because of Ash, who kept me company,” he told rescuers.
Mr Benedet, from the north-eastern city of Trieste, had decided to go for a hike by himself last week to try to recover from the death of his mother.
“He told me that he’d be gone for four or five days,” said his girlfriend, Francesca.
She began to be worried earlier this week after not hearing from him.
She could not reach him on his mobile phone because he was in an area with no reception, so she called the mountain rescue service.
A helicopter spotted him on Thursday in a remote part of the mountains, at an altitude of 2,300ft.
He had fallen into a ravine, broken his ankle, and then dragged himself towards a forest track in the hope that a passing vehicle would pick him up. But no car came.
He remained there for seven days and seven nights, with the temperature at night falling below freezing.
He had an emergency thermal blanket in his rucksack but when rescuers found him it had blown away about 100 yards and he had been unable to retrieve it.
He had nothing to eat but managed to drink water from a stream.
In considerable pain but conscious, he was flown by rescue helicopter to a hospital in the city of Udine.
His dog was also whisked out of the wilderness in a separate helicopter belonging to Italy’s Civil Protection Agency.
“Michele is exhausted after his ordeal,” his girlfriend told local media. “I collected Ash and I’m giving him something to eat.”
Italy has been through a cold snap in the last few days and Alpine regions have been hit by a bumper season of snow.