When police assigned trooper Daniel O’Neil an unadoptable shelter dog as his first K9 partner, he poured his heart into training her. And eventually the pooch became the perfect police dog. So when the pair made a disturbing discovery in some woods one day, the dog – Ruby – knew exactly what to do.
In her first year on this planet, Ruby the dog was put through the wringer. She had even wound up in an animal shelter in East Providence, Rhode Island, on four different occasions. And it appeared that her chances of receiving a happy ending were slipping from her grasp.
The trouble was that Ruby wasn’t exactly what you’d call the perfect pet. In particular, she was hostile to children and other animals. Those caring for her at the shelter had therefore decided that she was a no hope case. So they arranged for her to be euthanized.
The one person who believed in Ruby, though, was her dog trainer, Patricia Inman. And every time the pooch returned to the shelter, Inman did all she could to improve Ruby’s behavior and boost her chances of adoption. However, even with all her expertise, the trainer couldn’t change the dog.
Writing on Facebook, Inman revealed, “She did not have an off switch. She was too much dog for most families.” But while Ruby wasn’t your average pet, the trainer thought there was one place where the dog’s energy might be appreciated.
That’s why Inman contacted the Rhode Island State Police Canine Unit. And after hearing about Ruby, it decided to take the dog on. So, just two hours before Ruby was due to be put down, the cops assigned her to Daniel O’Neil. O’Neil had been a trooper for seven years, but it had always been his dream to work in the K9 unit.
So when O’Neil finally met Ruby, he was able to see past her rambunctiousness to the clever pup within. He had high hopes for the dog’s law enforcement career too. But first, he had to take Ruby home to his pregnant wife, toddler son and pet pooch.
Over the course of the next four months, then, O’Neil kept a close eye on Ruby. In fact, the pair did everything together. The dog accompanied the cop on his lengthy runs and even went to work at the police department. The idea was to form a relationship. “The dog has to really love you to work for you,” O’Neil explained to Police Magazine in March 2018.
During this time, O’Neil also plowed his energy into actually training Ruby. And this was no mean feat. “Sometimes I’d look at other members of the K9 unit with their respective high-priced canines that were bred for police work and say, ‘How did I get this disaster?’” O’Neil admitted to Today in April 2018.
However, as soon as Ruby’s routine stabilized, her behavior began to improve. And before long, the dog had earned her police badge. She went on to assist O’Neil on several cases. These included searches for ten missing people – three of whom she found alive.
Perhaps Ruby’s most memorable case occurred in October 2017, though. It was then that O’Neil took a call from Glocester Police Department regarding a teenage boy who had been missing for 36 hours. With no sign of the youngster anywhere, Glocester Police wanted the cop and Ruby to join the search.
The pair did so willingly, and O’Neil began by creating a victim profile of the missing boy. To do so, he paid a visit to the teen’s mother, who told the cop where her son and his friends usually went hiking. Armed with this information, O’Neil and Ruby went to search the area alongside another trooper and his dog.
A short way into the search, Ruby suddenly darted off. O’Neil followed, and that’s how he came to discover a body lying face down on the ground. By this point, his dog was already one step ahead of him. She was licking the person’s face in an attempt to revive them.
When O’Neil got closer to the body, he could see that it was the young man they’d been looking for. He flipped him over and discovered that his head had been badly cut. But despite his injuries, the cop managed to locate the faintest of pulses. So he radioed his colleagues for assistance.
However, when troopers arrived in the forest, they were unable to locate O’Neil and the casualty. Time was of the essence, so the cop instructed Ruby to bark. Thanks to the cop’s quick thinking, they were eventually found, and the young man was rushed to a nearby hospital.
With the boy in safe hands, O’Neil returned to his mother’s house to inform her that they’d found him. She was so grateful to the cops and their work that she started to cry. But when she regained control of her tears, she had an unusual question for O’Neil: did he know a dog named Ruby?
Describing what happened next, O’Neil revealed, “I was taken aback. I said, ‘Er, yes. Ruby is my K9 partner who just found your boy.’” Upon hearing the revelation, the woman started to cry once more. That’s because she was Patricia Inman – the trainer who had saved Ruby from death row all those years ago.
For O’Neil, the coincidence was just remarkable. “Can you imagine the dog whose life she’d saved ends up saving her son’s life?” he said. But as fate would have it, that’s exactly what had happened. And now more than ever, Inman must have felt like her efforts with Ruby had finally paid off.
But the relieved mother wasn’t the only person to take note of Ruby’s courageous actions. After news of the dog’s efforts spread, she was named Search and Rescue Dog of the Year in 2018. She was also included in a round-up of The 25 Most Heroic Dogs in America.
The accolades earned Ruby praise from state governor Gina Raimondo. “Ruby is Rhode Island’s top dog. If not for her efforts, a young man’s life could have been lost,” she told WPRI in July 2018. “Ruby really is a hero. I commend the Rhode Island State Police for rescuing Ruby and training her for this important work.”