ONCE UPON A TIME…There was a blue merle Great Dane who loved to ride in cars. Sam, now a 5-year-old, 210-pound dog who stands about 6 feet, 4 inches tall on his hind legs, was adopted at 8 months of age by the Goding family. “We worry that Sam gets frustrated if he hasn’t been in a car for awhile—which means for some portion of the day—and it’s not unusual for one of us to ask, Hey, has Sam gotten a ride today?,” says Keith Goding, owner of Hard Work Yard Work. “And if he hasn’t, we’ll open up the car and he’ll jump in, and we’ll give him a 15-minute ride around the neighborhood.”

Because of Sam’s love for being out and about, he’s often with Goding or his son, Drew, while they conduct their company’s business. “He goes to work every day, and he gets really upset if for some reason I can’t take him,” Goding says. “It’s developed over time where Sam’s kind of the mascot for the company. Many of our customers are attached to him and insist that we bring him when we come to work.” And it’s not just the customers—everyone from suppliers to bank tellers and gas station attendants love to see Sam when Goding is out on business. “He’s really kind of a rock star,” Goding says.

It didn’t start out that way, though. The family, which also includes Goding’s partner Ann, first heard about Sam through Angel Acres, a Creve Coeur rescue organization that focuses on small breeds. An associate of hers had found Sam—malnourished, dehydrated, and essentially abandoned, Goding says. “He was very close to death when he was brought into the vet initially,” he recalls. “As soon as Sam was back in good health, he was placed for adoption; and that’s when my son and I went out to visit him, and we fell in love at first sight.”

Such a large dog attracts a lot of attention, and Goding is used to getting plenty of questions about Sam. How much does he eat? A lot. Where does he sleep? Wherever he wants—the couch, the bed, you name it. Is he friendly? Well, he might lick you to death; but other than that, you’ll be fine.

It’s not just people giving Sam lots of attention, either. The Godings also board a horse in West County, and Goding is on the board of St. Louis National Charity Horse Show, which benefits Stray Rescue and Therapeutic Horsemanship. When the family visits the horse, Sam goes straight to the horse pen and kisses each one on the nose. “He’ll go down the line, and when he’s done, it’s like he’s free—he’ll run around or hang out with us,” Goding says. “But it’s like it’s his job: He’s got to say hi and give each horse a kiss first.”

More than anything, the experience with Sam has really been proof of how resilient dogs can be, Goding says. “One of the great lessons with Sam—and probably most other adopted dogs—is even if they go through a horrible period in their life, it’s amazing how forgiving they can be in terms of not holding on to the bad from their early life,” he says. “Sam is a completely adjusted, balanced, wonderful dog, and yet he had a really bad beginning. He’s just a great example of how even dogs who have come from tough times can make wonderful pets. When they go to a new, positive environment, it’s amazing how any of the bad experiences they’ve had in the past are erased by their new environment and a happy family. Sam had a rough beginning, but he’s got a pretty good middle going.”

For Your Own Fairy-Tail Ending:

Angel Acres

993-9883, petfinder.com/shelters/mo293.html

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