Does anyone else think that it’s much sadder when a dog dies in a movie than when a person does? Whenever I watch a disaster movie I’m only concerned about whether the dog survives. I can’t get through Old Yeller or Marley & Me without tearing up.
Which is why the 2007 Will Smith blockbuster I Am Legend left such a lasting impression on audiences. Smith plays the last man on earth whose only companion is a dog named Sam, but—spoiler alert—things don’t end well for the dog, who has to be put down after a mutant attack:
Sam’s death left audiences in tears. Twelve years later it’s still mentioned as one of the all-time saddest movie moments.
But amazingly, the very talented German Shepherd who played her in the movie is still alive, and has a happy home with her movie trainer.
The dog’s name is Abbey, and last year her owner Steve Berens revealed that she was still going strong, over a decade after her big screen debut and at 13 years old.
“She’s older now and she doesn’t hear hardly anything,” Berens told LAD Bible. “But she’s still kicking, she still likes a ball and likes a bone.”
For I Am Legend, he was tasked with finding a female German Shepherd to be Smith’s co-star, and discovered Abbey at a California kennel. Even though she perfectly fit the part, she needed a lot of training: “We were pretty much starting from scratch,” Berens told Entertainment Weekly in 2007. ”She didn’t even know her own name.”
But she ended up being the star of the production. “When we finished her last shot, it was like the whole crew had been dying for six months to pet her,” director Francis Lawrence said. “Everybody swarmed. She loved it.”
One person Abbey really won over on set was her co-star, Will Smith, who says his bond with the dog on set helped him overcome his fear of animal attachment after losing a dog when he was 9.
“I love that dog,” he told Today.
So much so that he even asked Berens to adopt the dog after filming wrapped: “I was begging him,” Smith said. “I was like, ‘Please let me have Abbey. Please, please, please let me have her.’ But you know, she has her own family now so it was just another one of those fleeting Hollywood romances.”
But Berens had his own attachment to the dog, and felt he could give a more stable home to the Abbey.
“I didn’t want to see that end badly – you know how a lot of these stars fall in love with their co-stars, and then once they move on to the next picture, they’re off and running,” he told LAD Bible.
“When you train and you spend that much time personally, it’s quite a relationship that you develop. She’s always been with us, in the house and around our other animals. She’s just always been a big part of our family.”
He says that Abbey had a few small roles after her big screen debut, but now over 14 years old, she’s just happy to be a loving pet.
Still, that one role was enough to put Abbey in the pantheon of unforgettable movie pets, still making us tear up over a decade later.
Know someone who cried over the dog in I Am Legend? Share this interesting story with them! Things may have ended sadly in the movie, but we’re glad to see this famous dog got a real-life happy ending!