The Tails Have Turned: Lessons from “Rescued by Ruby”

I want to binge the new season of Bridgerton as much as the next person this weekend, but there’s a “diamond” of the season outside of luxurious London of a bygone era. This one is set in New Hampshire, of all places, accents and all. It’s called “Rescued by Ruby“.

It opens with a “Based on a True Story” with a nostalgic font of Lassie shows. “Of course,” I cynically say to myself, “They are all based on real events.”

As the movie went on, there were some tense scenes. I’ve watched enough Lifetime Movies to know the dog rarely makes it out alive. I said out loud as I cradled Summerella, “THIS DOG BETTER NOT DIE!” knowing this isn’t Lifetime and I’m not sure how this particular filmmaker feels about killing a dog and sending me back to therapy once again.

I’ve told about 100 people they need to watch this movie and everyone has the same reservations about “I can’t handle another dog tragedy movie.” So let me be clear –

“No dogs die in this movie. None. Zero. Ruby is still alive to this day in cinema and in reality”

(A sad update from the Rhode Island State Police on this story)

The movie starts and a hint of familiarity rushes over me. Is it? Could it be? YES! It’s Scott Wolf! Gen Xers will love the Party of 5 star in a much more stern role than the loveable “Bae.” He was the original “Bae” to all you younger generations.

It’s no surprise that dog movies are always going to wreck me. The scene in Homeward Bound, staring over that hill just know that SHADOW. MUST. COME. HOME. and when his boy says “It was too far. He was just too old,” and moments later Shadow limped over the horizon.

In Turner & Hooch, I was still sobbing uncontrollably from Hooch’s passing…

…. with the only respite being the final “This is not your room.” Yes, world, Tom Hanks has and will always be a National Treasure.

Now adding to the long list (Lassie, Hooch, Bella aka ‘No Barks’, Bailey, Shadow, Chance, Marley, Skip, Hachi, Beethoven, Benji, etc. – Let me introduce you to Ruby.

Real-life Ruby
Movie Ruby (aka Bear & Shiloh)

This is not a movie review. My opinions on movies don’t match the caliber you’d expect of one. This just more of what a 40-something woman in the middle of a Great Resignation of her own, after years of always being misunderstood, having more passion than discipline and always with a dog or two by my side, learned from this movie experiences.

Own Your Faults

The movie isn’t about Ruby and it’s not about Ruby’s handler, Corporal Dan O’Neil. It’s a movie about both and the work and life families supporting and challenging each other.

I’ve written before about “Talking Trash” and our inner voice we let tear us down. Corporal O’Neil suffers from this. He’s unorganized mentally, all over the place, spreading love and kindness as his minds spins. He always has that focal point, however. That focal point is Ruby and how they are going to change the world together.

We could all learn a little bit about taking the hard road through our mental and personality challenges instead of just saying, “It is what it is” and continuing with mediocrity.

Your dog is smarter and more emotional connected than you ever knew

There’s a scene where literally everyone watching is screaming “DIG! DIG! DIG!” as Corporal O’Neil gives up. He doesn’t trust his dog. The dog knows.

Cut to a few scenes later and he’s apologizing to nobody and everybody at the edge of a bridge. Conveniently, yet unknowingly, Ruby is under that bridge. I take the symbolism from this to suggest our dogs are always listening. Good times and bad times, they’re always keen when we’re in chaos.

Even this morning, I was going through some old clothes to bag up for charity, and I came across a T-shirt my mom had made for me that read “Sierra’s Mom.” I cried. For my sweet Sierra running the fields over the rainbow bridge and for a mom who’s death gutted me.

As I placed my head into the shirt, crying sobs of grief pushed down way too long, I felt a surrounding presence. Donner & Summerella were leaning into me, licking away tears. I told them they story of the shirt and they were kind enough to listen as if they understood.

Dogs are always listening. When they let us down, we have to take the ownership that we let them down and we’re really mad at ourselves. Their sole purpose is to please us and we just have to point the way.

You never know who your cheerleaders are

Scott Wolf plays a very stern Trooper Matt Zarrella, or ‘Mean Matt’ as I called him in the movie. He’s a tough love kind of guy, and there’s no hating that. As much as Ruby wants to please Dan, Dan wants to please Zarella.

Matt just knows the changes and adaptations that need to happen for Dan and Ruby to get where they want to be. It’s not an easy path and he’s not going to make it any easier. He’s also not making it harder. He’s just setting a clear path of “You must do this very hard thing to get to where you want. Do you have the grit to do it.”

Finally, at one point in the movie, Bailey Salinger’s adorable dimples came back in a smile and it’s punctuated that nobody wanted the pair to succeed more than Matt.

Are you getting mad at your cheerleaders in life because they are tough on you? Are you trying to get a hall pass from them on the hard parts and sneak through the side door? Stop. Listen. Go right where they want you to go and smash the victory.

Give someone a chance

Ruby was returned five times before Dan saved her life. She was going to euthanized. Almost everyone had given up on her.

Do you have someone in your workplace or personal life who has repeatedly let you down and you’ve given up? Much like dogs, human can’t read minds. They don’t know what you want from them. I can’t just magically tell myself to be good at dancing. I can’t make a green journalist realize the implications of poor journalism without working with them. I have to work with them, on their term and in their best way of learning.

Are you rewarding good behavior from loved ones and colleagues? Or just punishing the bad moments? You can’t return a human five times. You might be the only change for understand they are ever going to get. You are poised to the hero or villain in their movie of life.

That one person you met that one time could be a starring role in your life

In an ending at first I thought was a little “too Hollywood” ended up being one of those amazing things that really happened.

It reminded me of all the people I pass in a day – the checkout lady, the gas station attendant, the old woman I helped load groceries into her car – they could all be the pivotal moment in my life. That one person who once helped you learn something at work could end up being the person who gives the recommendation to get your dream job.

I kicked myself for thinking it was “Too Hollywood” and realizing it was an act of God. He’s walking with us every step of every interaction we have.

Turn Your Public Relations into Personal Relations

I’ve tweeted many times to Lifetime about the dogs dying in their movies and I’ve never gotten so much as an “LOL” back.

I made a random tweet about “Rescued by Ruby” and the film studio and Scott Wolf himself tweeted back to me. What’s more? The producer of the film reached out to me on LinkedIn with a private message I’m now making public. (Dear God I hope that’s okay!)

“I produced Rescued By Ruby. I just wanted to thank you for saying such lovely things about the film in Twitter. The whole cast & crew really appreciate the support. Thrilled you enjoyed it! It means so much to us.”

– Brain Gott

My friends, THAT is how you connect with viewers. Not only did I actually love the movie with no pressure, I’m now connected emotionally to Fezziwig Studios and anything else they produce.

(FWIW – I am also completely open to letting my Golden Retrievers star in any movie, ever.)

I realize the challenges to contact everyone every time you ever love a movie is insane. But is it? As the social media world craves authenticity, what’s more authentic than that?

Beautiful things that happen should be celebrated

While my lifetime with Donner spans 11 years and counting and Sierra’s 16 1/2 years until she crossed that dreaded bridge won’t ever make a Hollywood movie, I still celebrate the little things.

The way Donner’s face squishes up when I rub his ears. The way Summerella trust me SO much she faces away from me and falls back into my chest without even looking. The moments Sierra would come running when I screamed “Snuggle Buggle McGuggle!” and cuddled in as the little spoon.

These are the moment I take away from life. These are the moments I take with me when they leave. These are the moments that make me alive.

Appreciate every stage and every moments of a dog’s life. It goes too fast and we can’t get it back. We will already regret walks we didn’t take. Cuddles that ended to soon because of life’s other responsibilities. Savor the moments.

I hope you get a chance to watch the extremely family-friendly “Rescued By Ruby” and enjoy it as much as I did. Let me know your thoughts.

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