Loyal Tommy, a seven-year-old German Shepherd, belonged to Maria Margherita Lochi, 57, and had been her faithful companion after she adopted him when she found him abandoned in fields close to her home.
Mrs Lochi adopted several strays she found but friends said she developed a particular close affection for Tommy and would walk to church with him from her home every day - where the priest would allow him to sit patiently by her feet.
Following her death at San Donaci near Brindisi, a funeral service was held at which Tommy joined mourners and since then he has been a regular at the church arriving on time when the bells ring out to mark the start of services.
Father Donato Panna said:''He's there every time I celebrate Mass and is very well behaved - he doesn't make a sound, I've not heard one bark from him in all the time he has been coming in.
'He used to come to Mass with Maria and he was obviously devoted to her - I let him stay inside as he was always so well behaved and none of the other parishioners ever complained to me.
'He's still coming to Mass even after Maria's funeral, he waits patiently by the side of the altar and just sits there quietly. I didn't have the heart to throw him out - I've just recently lost my own dog so I leave him there until Mass finishes and then I let him out.
'Tommy's been adopted by everyone in the village now and he is everybody's friend. Everyone looks out for him and leaves food for him - although it would be nice to find a proper home for him.'
The story of Tommy is similar to the 2009 Hollywood blockbuster Hachiko starring Richard Gere which told of how a faithful Akita dog waited patiently for his master after he died.
It was based on the true story of a Japanese Akita called Hachiko, whose owner died in 1925 but for the next nine years he waited patiently at a railway station for his owner from where they regularly caught a train.