The I Am Legend Dog: The Saddest Moment in the Movie—Who Played the Dog? Who Trained It? What’s the Dog Doing Now? And More

Much of the discussion about I Am Legend swirling around the web is about the film’s theatrical and alternate endings, especially about which version serves the source material better. Apart from all the actions and accuracy-related matters, there is another important element of the film worth revisiting: Samantha, the female German Shepherd famously known as the I Am Legend Dog.


I Am Legend Dog

For nearly 30 minutes into the movie, Samantha – or simply Sam, is pretty much Robert Neville’s only true living breathing companion. There are indeed plenty of deer and few lions on the streets as well as infected rats at home, but Sam is friend and family. Except for the flashbacks that depict the early phase of the zombie-inducing pandemic and the subsequent chaos in NYC, the first present-day part of the film is all about Sam and Neville. Her appearance is refreshing, even if it doesn’t conform with the source material, but sadly her role comes to a close a little too soon. Based on film’s timeline, Sam ends her part on Day 1,001 of the pandemic.

In a flashback scene where Neville gives a farewell talk to his wife and daughter, it is revealed that Sam has always been part of the Neville family. His daughter, Marley, wanted the then-puppy Sam to keep her father company. 


I Am Legend Dog

As the pandemic rages, everything goes as expected in their day-to-day circumstances, at least in a city overwhelmed by monsters, or the “Darkseekers” as the film calls the mutated aggressive humans. During the day Neville and Sam patrol the city and make a stop at the South Street Seaport during high noon. Sam helps Neville make sure there is no danger lurking around the corner or hiding behind the door as he scours houses in the surrounding neighborhood for resources. The two have to be home before dark. They eat, exercise, hunt, sleep, and fight the Darkseekers together.

Immunity to Virus

I Am Legend Dog

There is no explicit explanation about how Neville is immune to the mutation-inducing infection by the Krippin Virus (KV) – named after Dr. Alice Krippin, whose discovery of a miracle cure for cancer inadvertently evolves into a new strain that triggers a catastrophe of biblical proportion. KV has a 90% kill rate; only 1% of the population is immune to the virus, whereas the remaining 9% turn into Darkseekers. 

It is believed the virus is transmitted by air and through a bite from an infected human or animal. Both Sam and Neville show no sign of infection from airborne transmission. In an interaction with Sam before Neville sets a trap for a Darkseeker to be used in his drug tests, he confirms the immunity issue. He cannot get infected, but Sam remains susceptible to contact strains.

The Trap Backfires

Neville captures a female Darkseeker using the trap. However, a male Darkseeker uses a clever trick to lure Neville into the same trap the next day. Neville is hanging upside down out in the open, which starts the sequence of events leading to Sam getting injured and infected. As soon as he walks into the trap, the mechanism flings Neville’s head down to the road and renders him unconscious. Sam is by his side, trying to wake him up throughout the day.

Although Neville is able to release himself from the trap just before dark, he is injured in the leg and cannot run. There is now little time to get back to the car and make an escape from the nocturnal Darkseekers. As soon as the sunlight disappears, three infected large dogs charge forward. Neville shoots and kills one immediately, while Sam is struggling to keep another at bay. It is a relief to know that Sam is able to defeat an infected beast, but there is yet another now standing on top of Neville. Once again Sam launches herself toward the attacking dog and ends up getting bitten. Sam and Neville barely survive. She suffers multiple bite wounds and is unable to stand up.


Back at home, Neville rushes Sam to the underground lab for treatment. He gives her an injection of serum in the hope of preventing the infection from spreading, to no avail. When Sam develops symptoms of aggressive mutation, and in probably the saddest moment in the movie, Neville has no choice but to end her suffering. He buries Sam the next day during daylight in Central Park.

Real-life Sam

I Am Legend is, after all, a sci-fi film. There is no real Samantha wandering around a post-apocalyptic NYC. She is a just a character, portrayed by a real German Shepherd named Abbey. Now still alive and well, Abbey is enjoying her retirement days with her own family in California. Abbey is under the care of Steve Barrens – as she has always been for much of her life – an animal trainer with more than three decades of experience in the field.

Barrens understood well from the beginning of the production that Samantha was a demanding role for Abbey. It did not help that she was only about 3 years old at the time and didn’t even know her own name. The dynamics between Will Smith (the actor portraying Robert Neville in the film) and Abbey also had a difficult start. When he walked up, she barked at him. The good thing is that it only took Abbey three weeks of training until she became ready to play Samantha. Smith eventually earned her respect, and the six-month-long shoot ran without meaningful challenges. Abbey is now 18-years-old, and according to Barrens, she can barely hear anything. Nevertheless, she enjoys her life and spends every day with Barren’s daughter and her children.

When we watched I Am Legend, the saddest part for us was when Sam died, but for two reasons. The obvious one was the dog dying after protecting her human. But we felt badly for Neville, too, as he was now entirely alone.

Did you see the movie? What was the saddest part for you? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

If you liked this, then check out I Am Legend: The Book—If This Is the Future of Humanity, the End of the World Is Going to Suck!

Other things you might want to know about.

In the movie I Am Legend, did the vaccination cause the zombie outbreak?

According to the vaccination did not cause the zombie outbreak in the movie. It was the genetically engineered measles virus that caused the plague and the zombie-like creatures in the sci-fi film.

Go to for more information about this fact check on the I Am Legend movie. 

What are other animals that have starred in popular films?

According to here are 7 of the most popular animals in movies.

  1. Simba The Lion
  2. Sebastian The Crab
  3. The Tiger in The Hangover
  4. Beethoven The Dog
  5. Mr. Tinkles The Cat
  6. The Shark in Jaws
  7. Babe The Pig

Go to for details about each of these animals and the movies they were in. 

7 movies that inspired animal trends.

According to animals have become trends over the years. Here are 7 such trends.

  1. Lassie Come Home (1943) Collie registration went up 40 per cent the first 2 years this movie came out. 
  2. The Shaggy Dog (1959) After this film’s release Old English Sheepdog registration increased 100 fold.
  3. 101 Dalmatians (1961, 1996) After each of the films released the amount of families wanting Dalmatians increased dramatically. The breed of Dalmatians can be hard to handle and families were taking the beautiful Dalmatians to animals shelters.
  4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) After this movie kids wanted turtles as the new pet of the families. The problem here led to abandonment of turtles in rivers, lakes, dumpsters, or flushed down toilets. 
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) Many fans sought owls, especially in England. Eventually hundreds of owls were abandoned .
  6. Finding Nemo (2003) The demand for clown fish soared, dropping the clown fish population in some reefs by 75 percent. 
  7. Zootopia (2016) The sales of the native Africa fox took off around the globe. 

Go to to read more information about how animals in movies sets trends around the world. The article is called 7 movies that inspired animal trends by Emilee White.