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‘Rescued by Ruby’ vs. the True Story of Dan O'Neil and his K-9 Dog Ruby


Bear (Dog Actor)
Bio: Bear was rescued from a shelter like Ruby.

Bio: Shelter Dog Adopted by Trooper Dan O'Neil.

Grant Gustin
Born: January 14, 1990
Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Dan O'Neil
Born: abt 1980
Birthplace: USA
Bio: Rhode Island State Police Officer and Ruby's Handler

Kaylah Zander
Born: abt 1982
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Melissa O'Neil
Birthplace: USA
Bio: Wife of Corporal Dan O'Neil

Scott Wolf
Born: June 4, 1968
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Matt Zarrella
Born: August 1, 1962
Birthplace: Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Bio: Sergeant in Charge of Rhode Island State Police K-9 Unit

Camille Sullivan
Born: July 6, 1975
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Pat Inman
Bio: Dog Trainer and Shelter Volunteer who Worked with Ruby

Historical Accuracy (Q&A):

Why was Ruby surrendered to the animal shelter?

The Rescued by Ruby true story confirms that Ruby was surrendered to the Rhode Island animal shelter when she was four or five months old because she was "unmanageable."

What breed is Ruby the K-9 dog?

Despite the Netflix movie dog looking more like a collie, the real Ruby is an Australian shepherd and border collie mix.

The real Ruby dog's breed is a mix of Australian shepherd and border collie. On the right is the actor dog Bear as Ruby in the Netflix movie.

How many times was Ruby adopted and returned to the shelter before finding a home with Dan O'Neil?

The Rescued by Ruby real dog was adopted and returned to the shelter five times, mostly due to being unmanageable as the result of persistent behavioral problems. "Ruby was dynamite, a handful, nonstop," says shelter volunteer and dog trainer Patricia 'Pat' Inman, who was determined to find a suitable home for the rambunctious Ruby. Inman told the AP, "She jumped and bit her leash. She wouldn’t sit or lie down. She just never stopped moving. She was special, and she needed a special person." Pat Inman had to repeatedly intervene to prevent Ruby from being euthanized. -American Humane

Ruby was adopted and returned to the shelter five times before finding a home with State Police corporal Dan O'Neil.

Was Ruby two hours from being euthanized when the state police stepped in and adopted her?

Yes. In researching how true is Rescued by Ruby, we discovered that the real dog indeed came very close to being put down. "When the dog was just about two hours from being put down, one of the advocates for the dog, [Patricia Inman], wanted her to be offered to the Rhode Island State Police," says Dan O'Neil. "I finally got my wish and was assigned Ruby." -Today

Was it State Trooper Dan O'Neil's dream to work in the K-9 unit?

Yes. "During my first seven years as a trooper, I told just about everyone my dream," says Dan O'Neil, "to work in the Rhode Island State Police K-9 unit." -Today

The real Dan O'Neil (left) of the Rhode Island State Police and actor Grant Gustin (right) in Rescued by Ruby.

Why did Trooper Dan O'Neil decide to adopt Ruby and train her as a search and rescue dog?

Rhode Island State Trooper Dan O'Neil's department was in need of another search and rescue dog. "Patricia [Inman] knew there was something about this dog," says O'Neil. "There was something about [Ruby's] energy, her focus, her drive. She just needed a job to get all that focused energy to work at."

"She was an absolute wreck," recalls Dan. "She hadn't had a stable home for her first eight months of life and was in desperate need of love and stability." -Daily Paws

Left: Ruby the search and rescue dog on duty with her handler, Corporal Dan O'Neil. Right: The dog actor Bear and Grant Gustin as the duo in the movie.

Does Officer Dan O'Neil suffer from dyslexia and hyperactivity?

Yes. "[Ruby and I] both kind of know where each other's coming from," said O'Neil, who has also had challenges with learning and focusing at times. -AP

Was Dan O'Neil's wife pregnant at the time he adopted Ruby?

Yes. The Rescued by Ruby true story corroborates that his wife was expecting. "I brought [Ruby] home. My wife was pregnant. We had a toddler and another dog," says Dan. -Today

Melissa and Dan O'Neil in real life (left) and as portrayed by actors Kaylah Zander and Grant Gustin in the Netflix Rescued by Ruby movie (right).

Are most search and rescue dogs bred and raised for the job from birth?

Yes. While most search and rescue K-9s are bred for the job and cost around $7,500, Ruby was a shelter dog that was eight months old when she was adopted in 2011 and began training with Rhode Island State Police Corporal Dan O'Neil. "The training Ruby had to get was from the ground up. We had to build a foundation with Ruby," says O'Neil. "There's always going to be that stigma of, 'She's the shelter dog,' but the second you see her workin', then you're gonna be like, 'Well, okay, we're good.'"

"Sometimes I'd look at other members of the K-9 unit with their respective high-priced K-9s bred for police work and say, 'How did I get this disaster?' It wasn't easy, but I wanted my dream to come true, so I had to make it work." Dan says he discovered that once Ruby was in a stable environment, she began to turn a corner. -Today

Corporal Dan O'Neil runs Ruby through a K-9 obstacle course.

Did Ruby complete her search and rescue training at the top of her class?

Yes. The Rescued by Ruby real story confirms that with the help of Dan O'Neil, the once unruly underdog Ruby excelled when it came to her training and rose to the top of her class.

Did Ruby run away from home?

Yes. In real life, this happened in early December 2018. The Rescued by Ruby real dog escaped from Trooper Dan O'Neil's fenced backyard and ran away. The dog was found around 1 a.m. not far from O'Neil's home after several hours of searching. The Rhode Island State Police stated at the time that neither Trooper O'Neil or his K-9 Ruby would be reprimanded.

Did Ruby help to search for the child of the very same person who cared for her at the shelter?

Yes. "I got up early one morning, opened my son's bedroom door, and he was gone," says Pat Inman, the woman who had cared for Ruby at the shelter and helped to place her with Rhode Island State Police officer Dan O'Neil.

"He had been missing for 36 hours," says Officer O'Neil. Another K-9 unit officer named Scott Carlsten remarked that they had been on a lot of similar cases of missing persons that didn't end well.

The real Dan O'Neil and Ruby, his K-9 search and rescue dog. Inset is actor Grant Gustin in the Netflix movie.

Where was Patricia Inman's son found?

In October 2017, the real Ruby dog led her handler, Officer Dan O'Neil, straight to Patricia Inman's teenage son, who had fallen into a ravine while hiking and was about a mile and a half into the woods. He had been missing for 36 hours and was unconscious, having hit his head on a rock. The boy was in critical condition with a faint pulse and a bad head laceration. Dan radioed the other troopers and rescue units his GPS coordinates, but they were having trouble locating him. However, Ruby's persistent barking drew them to the scene.

The K-9 Ruby was able to accomplish what the human search party hadn't been able to do. She found Pat Inman's son and summoned help. The young man spent a couple of weeks in the hospital and made a full recovery. "Can you imagine," says Dan, "the dog whose life she saved seven years ago ends up saving her son's life?" Ruby was named the 2018 Search and Rescue American Hero Dog.

How long has Ruby worked as a search and rescue dog?

In researching the true story, we learned that at the time of the release of Netflix's Rescued by Ruby movie in March 2022, Dan O'Neil and his K-9 dog Ruby had been partners for 11 years. During that time, Ruby and Dan worked together on several successful rescues. Ruby also helped to put two murderers behind bars based on evidence she sniffed out. -AP

The K-9 Ruby search and rescue dog (left) and Bear dog actor (right) in the film.

What is K-9 officer Dan O'Neil doing today?

O'Neil, 41, still works with the Rhode Island State Police. He currently oversees an 18-dog K-9 unit that includes Ruby. -AP

Is Rescued by Ruby based on a book?

The Netflix movie is based on the short stories "Ruby: A Godwink Dogwink" and "Dogwink Ruby" by Squire Rushnell. The short story is included in Rushnell's book Dogwinks: True Godwink Stories of Dogs and the Blessings They Bring.

Is the dog actor who plays Ruby in the movie also a former shelter dog?

Yes. In an interesting twist, the dog actor, Bear, who plays Ruby in the Netflix film, is also a former shelter dog. The movie's dog trainers saved Bear from being put down. -AP