Netflix's new film features RI and a hero K-9 rescued from a shelter. How much is true? (2024)

The dramatic story of Ruby, the unadoptable shelter dog who was trained for state police work in search and rescue

Donita Naylor|The Providence Journal

Netflix's new film features RI and a hero K-9 rescued from a shelter. How much is true? (1)

Netflix's new film features RI and a hero K-9 rescued from a shelter. How much is true? (2)

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Ruby, the Rhode Island State Police search and rescue dog whose life story is now the subject of a Netflix original movie, made a star appearance at a sneak preview of "Rescued by Ruby" that wasscreened Monday formembers of the state police and their families.

The movie will premiere Thursday on thesubscription streaming service.

Grant Gustin, who on TV stars asThe Flash in the CW series and had beenSebastian Smythein "Glee," plays Trooper Dan, the enthusiastic beginner who learned search and rescue with Ruby in real life.

Cpl. Dan O'Neil is now in charge of K9 operations for 17 handlers and 18 dogs. He's the handler for two dogs: Ruby, who is still working, and Koda, her protégé.

Matt Zarrella, a trooper who made it his mission to establish a K9 corps for the state police, started byenrolling himself at his own expense in a training program with his less-than-ideal Saint Bernard. He is portrayed in the movie by Scott Wolf, known for playing Carson Drew in "Nancy Drew" and Bailey Salinger in"Party of Five."

Ruby,an R.I. police K9, makes Hero Dog cut

What did the real-life characters think of the actor's performances?

O'Neil said Wolf did such agood job ofadopting Zarrella'saccent and mannerisms that O'Neil watching the movie at home at times felt like Zarrella was in the room giving him orders again. He also said watching himself being portrayed by someone else was weird.

The role ofRuby is played byan actor dog named Bear, who like Ruby came close to being euthanized for unmanageable behavior that made him unadoptable.

Ruby was rescued from a shelterbefore becoming a hero. So was the animal actor who played her

The animal trainers were asked to find a shelter dog to play Ruby, and they found Bear in an Oklahoma collie rescue with a dog named Shiloh. They were inseparable, so both dogs were adopted.

From the archives: The rescued becomes the rescuer

The trainers had six weeks to work with thembefore filming began, and Shiloh became a stunt double for Bear. His coat had to be dyed to match Bear's.

Ruby and Bear haven't met, but Rubyperked her ears when she heard him bark on the video whenO'Neil previewed the movie at home with his wife, Melissa, and their two sons.

Is Netflix's movie Rescued by Ruby, based on a true story?

Ruby's remarkable story is true, but the movie makes a good many changes. She wasn't the first shelter dog to qualify for the state police K9 corps, because Zarrella had to build the force by training donated or shelter dogs.

What really is true is that Ruby made a rescue "so incredible and so unlikely" that she was nominated for and eventually won in online voting to become the Humane Society's Search and Rescue Hero Dog of 2018. That made her a finalist foroverall Hero Dog.

How did Ruby, a police K-9 dog get so famous?

As a finalist, she flew across the country with O'Neillin a commercial airline seat, stayed at the Beverly Hills Hilton where O'Neil's wife joined them, met Betty White, appeared on morning talk shows on both coasts, and was filmed aspart of the American Humane awards gala that aired later on Hallmark Channel.

Briefly missing: State police rescue dog Ruby shows she's OK after her own rescue

In New York with some of the other finalists for a taping of "Today," Rubysaw the “Dogs of 9/11” exhibit at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, and dined out with the other dogs and handlers at a New York City restaurant.

Then she returned to police work.

Is Ruby still an active police dog?

"Even though she's a movie star, she still has to do her job," O'Neilsaid Monday afternoon.Recently she helped check for victims at the Cliff Walk collapse in Newport, he said.

The Netflix movie is Ruby's second film.She is featured in Mary Healey Jamiel's documentary"Searchdog," about Zarrella's efforts to establish and build a state police K9 corps. Zarrella retired as a sergeant and operates American Patriot K9 Training. He attended the screening.

How much ofRescued by Ruby is true, and what did the film change?

Ruby, a shelter dog since she was about seven months old, was adopted and returned five times. (The Netflix movie makes itseven.) She was impossible, and families quickly realizedshe wouldn't work out.

See where Ruby is on the list: The 25 most heroic dogs in America

Each time she was returned, dog trainer Patricia Crowley Inman, who volunteered her services to the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, worked with Ruby to correct her unacceptable behaviors.

Inman began to think that Ruby wasn't meant for a family. She is a mix of border collie and Australian shepherd, both working dog breeds known for being highly intelligent. If they aren't focused on work, theymake mischief. Inman concluded that Ruby needed a job.

RISPCA investigator Joseph Warzycha also saw potential in Ruby. Two hours before she was to be euthanized as unadoptable, Warzycha asked Zarrella to evaluate Ruby for police work.

Zarrella decided that Ruby andO'Neil, who had been trying to join the K9 corps, would make a good team. Warzycha was not portrayed in the movie but he played such a key role in Ruby's story that he was invited on stage with the others at the Greenwich Odeum screening.

In the Netflix movie, Trooper Dan dreams of someday joining the elite K9 unit, but no one will give him a chance. He happens to visit the shelter and meets Ruby, who is about to be euthanized. He adopts her and they begin training together.

The movie is about Ruby and O'Neil's struggle to make the cut while they learn to communicate with each other.

'Access Live' segment: Trooper and his K9 subject of TV segment

The role of Rhode Island in the movie was played by Vancouver. Filming took place there while Rhode Island was dealing with COVID.

Ruby made an appearance at the screening on Mondaybut didn't stay for the show. O'Neil said she indicated that all the excitement had been a little much for her, so she got a ride home.Plus, she had already seen the movie.

Netflix's new film features RI and a hero K-9 rescued from a shelter. How much is true? (2024)
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