Hero Shelter Dog Who Saved Rescuer's Son as Rhode Island Police Canine Gets Her Own Movie

Before joining the Rhode Island State Police, Ruby was adopted and returned to the animal shelter five times

Ruby The Rescue Dog
Photo: Courtesy of Dan O’Neil

Ruby the hero dog is about to be a movie star.

The rescue canine's life story is the basis for the new Netflix film, Rescued by Ruby, which premieres on March 17. The movie will follow the dog's remarkable journey from shelter pet at risk of being put down to hero police K9.

"Our hope, our prayer honestly, is that people see the movie and they will go out, and they will adopt a shelter dog," Louise DuArt — one of Rescued by Ruby's executive producers along with SQuire Rushnell — told PEOPLE.

To ensure that rescue pets were at the heart of their film, DuArt and Rushnell had talented shelter dogs play the role of Ruby in the new Netflix movie. In Rescued by Ruby, the titular hero is portrayed by two rescue dogs, Bear and Shiloh, a bonded pair adopted from a shelter by the movie's animal trainers.

"There's really an amazing parallel between the dogs," Rushnell said of the film's stars and Ruby, all dogs who were once at risk of being put down.

Ruby's story starts at the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, where the energetic dog was returned five times after being adopted because of her hard-to-manage behavior. Luckily, even after multiple false starts, shelter volunteer Patricia Inman stayed devoted to Ruby, training the dog and working to find her the ideal forever home so Ruby wouldn't be euthanized.

The forever home ended up being with Corporal Dan O'Neil, then a Rhode Island State Trooper, who was looking for a dog to train for a spot on the Rhode Island State Police K9 Unit.

"I tried out for the K9 Unit for several years and just kept getting passed over. Then Ruby came into my life in 2011. She was the first shelter dog to ever get adopted and put into police work in the Rhode Island State Police," O'Neil, now the Rhode Island State Police K-9 Unit Coordinator, said.

Ruby The Rescue Dog
Courtesy of Dan O’Neil

"She was aggressive, food aggressive. She was very protective of herself because she had never been in a stable environment," he added of the hurdles he helped Ruby overcome in their first months together.

Thanks to O'Neil's and Iman's faith in her, Ruby started to thrive. After working on her behavior with O'Neil for a year, Ruby went through a human remains detection class and passed "with flying colors," according to her partner, and went on to pass a search and rescue class shortly after. In 2012, Ruby became a certified state trooper with the Rhode Island State Police.

"It was quite a feat because this is the dog that wouldn't even sit for five seconds. To pass the test, I had to have her minimally sit for five minutes," O'Neil said.

Ruby The Rescue Dog
Courtesy of Dan O’Neil

No one knew then how Ruby would pay it forward to the shelter worker who saved her life. In 2017, O'Neil received a call from Rhode Island's Gloucester Police Department, asking for assistance locating a missing boy that had been missing for over 36 hours.

After six hours of searching, Ruby located the missing boy and stayed by his side with O'Neil until rescuers came to take the child to the hospital.

Once the boy was on his way to safety, Ruby and O'Neil met the child's family and were shocked to find that Iman, the shelter volunteer who never quit on Ruby, was the missing boy's mother.

"She started to cry. I started to cry," O'Neil said of he and Iman's reactions to realizing that Ruby rescued her rescuer.

"Even six years after not seeing her, Ruby was wagging her tail and jumping up on Pat, giving her kisses," the corporal added. "I told Pat, 'Pat, this was Ruby's way of saying thank you for giving her a chance.'"

Ruby The Rescue Dog
Courtesy of Dan O’Neil

Rescued by Ruby dives into this touching story and celebrates what a rescue dog can do when they get the opportunity to shine. Ruby is still shining today, well into her 11th year as a trooper with the Rhode Island State Police.

"There's no end in sight for her. She can still run around for hours and hours. She's just amazing. She just doesn't want to give up," O'Neil said.

"She's this little mutt that still is kicking butt today," he added.

To learn more about Ruby and her eventful life, watch Rescued by Ruby, premiering on Netflix on March 17.

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