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RI State Police K-9 officer ends up a hero for familiar friend

A Rhode Island State Police search and rescue K-9 officer that’s featured in an award-winning documentary has a special connection with the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (WJAR)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WJAR) - A Rhode Island State Police search and rescue K-9 officer that’s featured in an award-winning documentary has a special connection with the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Seven years ago, a dog named Ruby wound up at the RI SPCA.

Pat Inman is a volunteer dog trainer who worked with Ruby.

"Everyone remembers her,” Inman said. “(She’s) not a big dog, physically, but a big dog."

Ruby had a history of sometimes being aggressive and having too much energy, but RI SPCA staff members saw her as incredibly smart.

"People, they ask all the time, ‘Hey, do you have any good dogs at the shelter?’ I say, ‘They're all good dogs.’ But, every once in a while, there is a great one," said RI SPCA Director of Operations Joe Warzycha.

Ruby almost didn't get to show it.

After four failed adoption attempts, she was set to be euthanized.

With just hours left, Warzycha made a last-minute call to a renowned Rhode Island State Police K-9 evaluator, Sgt. Matt Zarrella, who is now retired.

"I said, ‘This is it, you know? You're her last chance,’” Warzycha said at the time. “She needed to be with the right person and, fortunately, we found that right person.”

Ruby was paired with Trooper Daniel O'Neil.

"The reason I love her so much is the second I start putting my uniform on during the daytime, she starts barking because she wants to go to work," said O'Neil.

In October, Ruby's outdoor work met her past.

Inman was one of several RI SPCA volunteers who previously worked with Ruby. Her son, who she said was dealing with personal issues, unexpectedly left their home in Chepachet early one morning.

Glocester police got involved and it quickly became a missing persons case.

"It was like someone kicked me in the stomach," said Inman.

After 24 hours with no sign of the young man, Rhode Island State Police were called in to help.

Ruby was one of two K-9s brought in as a part of search and rescue efforts.

"We were like, ‘Maybe the universe is coming together to help out,’" said Inman.

Approximately 36 hours after Inman's son went missing, Ruby found him in a thickly wooded area.

According to O'Neil, the young man was unconscious, clinging to life, about a mile and a half away from his home.

"When I turned him over, his hands were very stiff. He had a lot of facial injuries, and I checked his pulse,” O’Neil said. “He had a very weak pulse, so, of course, a rush of emotions came and I said, ‘We got him!’"

Inman's son survived. She told NBC 10 he's doing better now.

Without Ruby's efforts as a search and rescue K-9, the situation could have ended tragically.

"He would not have made it another day. She saved his life.”

Ruby is one of several dogs featured in an award-winning documentary, “Searchdog,” which was made by Rhode Island filmmaker Mary Healey Jamiel, who also teaches at the University of Rhode Island.

"I think Ruby exemplifies the story of someone who was unwanted and discarded and, like a lot of us, we all just need a second chance," she said.

There will be a red carpet screening event for the documentary at Providence Place Mall Thursday night.

The event is scheduled to start around 6 p.m.

Click here to learn more about ticket information.

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