RWU alum and K-9 partner recognized nationally for work on the force: Trooper Dan O’Neil and Ruby protect and serve together

Rachel Dvareckas, Herald Contributor

Some dogs are a man’s best friend and others go to work to be a man’s hero.

R.I. State Trooper and RWU Class of 2002 graduate Dan O’Neil is the proud handler and best friend to his search and rescue dog, Ruby. She has won three different dog of the year awards, as well as one of 2018’s Rhode Islanders of the Year during her eight years on the force.

O’Neil was a lost freshman student at RWU until he took a forensic science class and gained a passion for criminal justice. After graduation, he was an intern at the state police with hopes of one day becoming a R.I. state trooper.

He started at the state police academy in 2004, which is where he realized he wanted to be involved with the K-9 unit. In 2005, O’Neil graduated from the academy and instantly put his name in for the K-9 unit. He was looked over for seven years until he was assigned to Ruby.

Ruby had a rough beginning as a pup and was deemed unadoptable. She was supposed to be euthanized before the state police picked her up to train her to be a police dog.

“She is an inspiration. Give her a chance to succeed and she will,” O’Neil said.

Ruby’s life came full circle when she was assigned to find a young man who was lost in the woods and was only hours away from dying. She found the boy and when he was reunited with his mother, the woman realized that she had fostered Ruby years before and advocated for Ruby to join the police force.

“I think some higher power brought us all together,” O’Neil said. “You never know how helping someone today will affect you in the future.”

Ruby brings a lot of good press for the police department and has helped many other departments in the area. O’Neil is still surprised with the way his career has turned out. Although other officers may rag on him for being a “movie star,” he still goes to work every day in order to help people.

The R.I. state police currently has 17 police dogs and O’Neil said these dogs are important because they bring new abilities to the force. Ruby can search a 40-acre section of land in under an hour, something no human could possibly do.

When she isn’t working, Ruby loves to run around on the beach and play with O’Neil’s eight and ten-year-old sons. She loves to be around people and although it took her a couple of years to learn to love O’Neil’s family, they’re now inseparable.

At this point, Ruby has solved two murders and saved the lives of three people. O’Neil said Ruby has been a positive influence on him and has made him a better person. Ruby motivates him to do the right thing every day and is constantly helping him achieve his lifelong goal of having a positive impact on the world.