Ruby, shelter dog turned hero K9 and inspiration for Netflix film, euthanized after illness

K9 police dogs do incredible things all the time. They’re an invaluable part of any police department, doing things their human counterparts can’t, like using their incredible sense of smell to find missing people.

But few of these dogs achieve widespread fame, or have a story notable enough to be its own movie. But Ruby, the Rhode Island State Police’s most famous search-and-rescue dog, did both, going from the shelter to the national spotlight over her remarkable career.

Sadly, Ruby died on Friday, after being euthanized after being diagnosed with an untreatable illness. She was 11-and-a-half years old. Now, she is being remembered and mourned by her peers in the police department.

Ruby’s life had an auspicious beginning, with her behavioral problems leading to her ending up at a Rhode Island animal shelter and being returned by five different families, according to AP. Patricia Inman, her trainer at the shelter, recalled her being a “total knucklehead” who “just never stopped moving.”

“She was special, and she needed a special person,” she told AP.

But Ruby found that special person at eight months old after being adopted by Cpl. Daniel O’Neil of the Rhode Island State Police, intending to train the rambunctious pup as a police dog. It was an unusual step, as K9s are usually specially bred and trained for the job, but O’Neil saw something in Ruby.

“We both kind of know where each other’s coming from,” he told AP, identifying with the dog after growing up with dyslexia and hyperactivity.

It was a much-needed second chance for Ruby, who was so unwanted that she might’ve been euthanized. But the dog found her place in the department, thriving as an unlikely search-and-rescue dog.

“She’s a very alpha female and she loves to run the roost,” O’Neil told WJAR.

But Ruby’s story took a remarkable turn in 2017, when she located a teen who had been injured during a hiking trip. Not only did Ruby save the teen’s life, in a stunning coincidence he turned out to be the son of Patricia Inman, his trainer in the shelter.

“She definitely changed my life. My son wouldn’t be alive, and that’s not an exaggeration in any way,” Inman said.

“It’s like divine intervention. She was given a chance and she’s been doing everything she can to pay it back,” O’Neil told AP. “You have this dog that was given up on, and she’s changed so many people’s lives.”

In honor of her work, Ruby was named the American Humane Hero Dog’s “Search and Rescue Dog of the Year” in 2018. “Ruby was given a chance at life and ended up saving a life,” the organization said.

Another amazing honor: Ruby’s story was made into a movie.

Rescued by Ruby, starring Grant Gustin as O’Neil, premiered on Netflix on March 17, bringing Ruby’s inspiring story to a wide audience.

Sadly, Ruby’s remarkable life has come to an end. In a press release, the Rhode Island State Police announced that Ruby was euthanized on May 13. She was 11-and-a-half years old, and was diagnosed with a “sudden, acute, and untreatable illness.”

“Today the Rhode Island State Police family is mourning the death of K-9 Ruby,” said Colonel Darnell S. Weaver, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety.

“Her partnership with Corporal O’Neil was a special one and their search and rescue work in our K-9 Unit was a great service to the Rhode Islanders who have needed their help. Her award-winning rescue inspired us and we are grateful for her years of service.”

According to the press release, Ruby lived with Corporal O’Neil and his family, and will be honored in a private service. Ruby is remembered not just for her life-saving work as a search-and-rescue dog, but for breaking ground as one of the few shelter dogs to get that job.

“She became a symbol of hope for all shelter dogs, showing the world what a shelter dog can do when just given love and the chance to shine,” Colonel Weaver said. “She had a full, happy, and wonderful life, not only as a trooper, but as part of a loving family. She worked right until the end and never gave up doing what she loved most – making people smile.”

Rest in peace, Ruby. You were truly an inspiration to people everywhere, saving lives and showing how remarkable rescue dogs can be.

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