A Wickford Barracks K-9’s Legacy Memorialized in a Netflix Film

K-9 Ruby went from shelter pup to search-and-rescue police dog

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K-9 Ruby may have gained a national spotlight with the new Netflix movie Rescued by Ruby, but her humble roots originate here in Rhode Island. “I’ve always been a huge advocate of giving shelter pets a second chance,” says Corporal Dan O’Neil, the Rhode Island State Police trooper whose steadfast love and determination turned this wayward rescue pup into a superstar in the search-and-rescue field, winning American Humane’s Hero Dog of the Year in 2018.

Ruby was a Border Collie Australian Shepherd cross who was first surrendered as a puppy to the Rhode Island SPCA in East Providence for her unmanageable behaviors. She was returned by five different adopters and just two hours shy of being euthanized when shelter volunteer Patricia Inman proposed this “smart, dynamite” pup for police training, convinced she just needed a job. Ruby met with Corporal O’Neil of Wickford Barracks determined to fulfill his goal for her of making the K-9 unit against all odds, and a dream partnership was formed.

The movie, which was released for streaming March 17, is based on the true story of their work. It draws parallels between the pair, showing how both man and dog needed to work a little harder to harness their kinetic energy and focus – but when they do, the results are remarkable. 

In 2017, a teenager went missing in the Glocester woods and Ruby was the one to locate him, lying unconscious and bleeding. The boy was safely reunited with his mother, who turned out to be the very volunteer who campaigned for Ruby at the shelter. 

In the film, O’Neil is portrayed by Grant Gustin (to the delight of O’Neil’s young sons who loved him as The Flash), whose performance makes this a very human story as well as a canine one.

But while the movie is keenly feel-good, there was real life heartbreak in May this year when Ruby passed away at age 11. The loss may be great, but Ruby’s legacy is greater.

While the O’Neil family mourns privately, the official word comes from Colonel Darnell S. Weaver. “K-9 Ruby dedicated her life to serve the citizens of Rhode Island and made a positive impact on every person she interacted with,” he says. “She became a symbol of hope, showing the world what a shelter dog can do given love and the chance to shine. She had a full, wonderful life, not only as a trooper but as a part of a loving family. She worked right until the end and never gave up doing what she loved most – making people smile.”

 

Rescued By Ruby is available now on Netflix and suitable for Rhode Islanders of all ages. To show your support or learn more about the Rhode Island SPCA, visit RISPCA.com.

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