Ruby, a Border Collie Aussie Shepherd mix pictured above at the Seattle International Film Festival was only two hours away from being euthanized when she was rescued by Matt Zarrella. In July 2011 Ruby was considered "unadoptable". But Matt Zarrella saw that she might just make an excellent Search & Rescue Dog. Matt saw that Ruby had all the ingredients that could make a good search dog: high drive, high energy, intelligent, strong play drive, courageous. He also saw that she had a lot of problems: food aggressive, dog aggressive, people aggressive. She needed a channel for her spunk and vim and vigor. Thankfully, as you will see in SEARCHDOG, her issues were directed towards productive and challenging work. Through O'Neil's commitment, Zarrella's training (alongside his affable, supremely patient colleague Scott Carlesten), Ruby and her handler, Daniel O'Neil became a certified K9 team for the RI State Police Search & Rescue K9 Team. O'Neil has patiently worked with Ruby now for five years+. They have not separated since July of 2011. Since then, Ruby has been a member of the O'Neil family as well as an RI State Trooper. Ruby & Dan have been called to 40+ search missions, saved two people's lives and located many deceased. Yes --Ruby was just two hours away from being euthanized.
The people I've met after our SEARCHDOG screenings tell me that they crave to see and share Ruby's true story of "the underdog". They see Matt's story -- someone whose abilities were discounted early in life, yet who has succeeded greatly in life through his grit, courage, determination. Audiences see themselves in Matt Zarrella, in Ruby and Dan O'Neil. Audiences tell me that they are delighted by the resilience and positive energy that dogs like Ruby bring to a devastating search and that the film has opened their eyes to a discipline that they did not know existed. Ruby even made the Seattle Film Festival experience for all of us more fun, as we all smiled watching her "work" the crowd and give love to everyone, unconditionally.
What have I learned in these five months since showing SEARCHDOG at festivals and most recently at the Seattle International Film Festival? That people from across the country share the depth, passion and compassion that so many of us have for dogs AND also for the ultimate purpose of finding missing people. They connect with and are deeply moved by the stories of those missing people that are found after being discarded, or people that are "written off" or left for dead. After all, how many of us have been written off at some point in our lives? How many of us want to be that "second chance story"? As her handler Dan O'Neil says so eloquently in SEARCHDOG "She just needed a job." Now, when she is not doing her job riding in her cruiser on the highways in Rhode Island, or on a crucial search mission for a missing person with Dan, she has the rare, illustrious life of a movie star on the red carpet! Now I call that the ultimate second chance story! WOOF.
Please check out the beautiful pictures that the Seattle International Film Festival took of Ruby and the humans on the red carpet: https://www.flickr.com/photos/siff/sets/72157669110090605
SEARCHDOG... coming soon to a festival near YOU...
~Mary Healey Jamiel, Director / SEARCHDOG