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Remembering Ruby: Hero K-9 trooper went from the animal shelter to saving a boy's life with state police

Remembering Ruby the rescue dog
Remembering Ruby, a K9 trooper who made a life-saving rescue 03:44

Ruby was a beloved K-9 trooper with the Rhode Island State Police, but she didn't always work with them. Ruby was once a rambunctious rescue who was was in and out of the shelter – returned five times by five different families, her longtime handler Corporal Daniel O'Neil told CBS News.

"She was deemed un-adoptable, because of her high energy and she was just unmanageable," O'Neil said. "[The shelter workers] looked at her and just saw that she had a ton of energy that just needed to be focused and maybe put to work."

Corporal Daniel O'Neil believes that he and Ruby were destined to be paired together when she joined the Rhode Island State Police. Daniel O'Neil/Rhode Island State Police

They reached out to the state police, who wanted to give Ruby a second chance and decided to try her out as a search and rescue dog. O'Neil was picked to be her handler.

"We were kind of parallel. Because when I was younger, I was kind of a mess. I couldn't focus and I wasn't good at school. But no one really ever gave up on me. They said, 'Hey, he's a hard worker and he can really make a difference,'" he said. "And I think that's what they saw in Ruby and that's why we were destined to be together."

A normal dog could be trained in months. For Ruby, it took a year and a half, but O'Neil didn't want to give up on her. Finally, in 2011, she was a certified K-9 trooper. Six years later, she became even more than that – a hero. 

Before she died from cancer in 2022, Ruby received many honors for her heroic rescue of a missing boy. Rhode Island State Police

"We got a call from Glocester Police Department stating there was a missing boy," O'Neil said. "And we just went out and started searching."

About eight hours into their search, Ruby bolted away from O'Neil down a hill. 

"I looked over the hill and I saw a pair of boots on the ground, and there was a young boy laying face down and he hit his head and he had a huge laceration on his head and he was all stiff and it looked like he was deceased," O'Neil recalled. 

"You know, as a father, I was emotional. But as a trooper and a handler and the love I had for Ruby, I was so happy, because she had done exactly what I had trained her to do for the last six years," he said. 

The boy was in critical condition, and Ruby saved his life. O'Neil went to tell his mother that he was found alive and told her a K-9 trooper helped save her son. That's when they realized a serendipitous connection. The boy's mom once worked at an animal shelter.

"And she goes, 'Yeah, there was a dog back in 2011, that I absolutely loved, that I heard became a state trooper back a few years ago,'" O'Neil said. "And I said, 'What?'"

The mother told O'Neil her name was Pat Inman, and the dog she remembered from the shelter was named was Ruby. "I loved her, she was the sweetest thing," she told him. 

"I said, are you kidding?" O'Neil said. "And I said, 'Pat, that dog that you helped for all those times to get adopted and then become a trooper, just saved your son's life.' And she of course starts crying, then I start crying."

After Ruby saved the boy's life, his mother, Pat Inman, realized they had serendipitous connection. Inman knew Ruby when she was at the animal shelter years earlier.  Rhode Island State Police

Ruby was honored for her hard work – winning the American Humane Hero Dog Award in 2018, appearing on the cover of Rhode Island Monthly magazine and being celebrated by the state troopers. But unfortunately, Ruby was diagnosed with cancer and died in May 2022.

Before she passed, a Netflix movie about her called "Rescued by Ruby" premiered. Ruby's story will live on and continue to inspire countless people.  

"She was the poster child for shelter dogs. I'm hoping she's a symbol for shelter dogs that, hey, just because they're in a shelter doesn't mean they're bad dogs," O'Neil said. "They just need a chance, they need your patience, they just need your compassion and your love, and they can truly change the world." 

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