Soldier returns from Afghanistan to find his dog was given away


1st Lt. Brandon Harker left his yellow lab, Oakley, in the care of a friend during his nine-month deployment. But when Harker got home to Lakeland, Wash., he learned that his dog had been sold or given away while he was serving his country, according to an ad he posted on Craigslist. (Photo via Craigslist)

A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier returned from Afghanistan this month to find that the loved one he’d thought was waiting for him had disappeared.

First Lt. Brandon Harker left his yellow lab, Oakley, in the care of a friend during his nine-month deployment. But when Harker got home to Lakeland, Wash., he learned that his dog had been sold or given away while he was serving his country, according to an ad he posted on Craigslist.

“I am just trying to get him back to me since he was wrongfully given away or sold [without]my permission while I was deployed,” Harker wrote.

Harker, who told CNN that he adopted Oakley around Memorial Day 2011, when he was stationed at Fort Benning, has been on a mission to find the playful 2-year-old since he got back to the States. He has spoken to numerous media outlets and has created a Facebook page called “Help Find Oakley.”

On Facebook, Harker described his dog as “a giant baby” and said he “loves to try and crawl on your lap.”

Harker said in his ad that he was told the dog was given away or sold in May, but he believes it could have happened anytime between February and June.

Because Oakley is microchipped and registered to Harker, the soldier believes he could identify the dog if he is found. He said the champagne-colored spots on Oakley’s sides and legs, which he called unique markings for a lab, also would make him easy to spot.

Oakley also is good with kids and other dogs, Harker said.

“If anyone has any information on this and can help me please do,” he wrote on Craigslist.

As of early Monday afternoon, nearly 4,000 people had liked Harker’s Facebook page about Oakley.


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  1. Mike Mikulovsky on

    I hope LT.Harker finds Oakley healthy & happy. Good luck I’d look for Oakley but I live in WI. That friend is lucky he wasn’t my friend. I’d done a reinactment of the flag raising on Iwo Jima on his ass! Weird he has no idea who has the dog. I sure hope he didn’t kill Oakley! I might have believed he simply sold him for $$$. If he was still a puppy. Good Luck LT were all rooting for a Happy reunion for you both soon! Semper fi

  2. jeneen gabriel on

    Please, if there is anything more we can do, donations whatever. I want to know the name of the friend. Put the name of the person on facebook who was supposed to take care of the dog!

  3. As a long time dog owner & lover, I have mixed feelings on this article.
    What I am about to say my surprise some folks, while making others mad.
    But it is MY view!

    First of all, in MY opinion the OWNER is/was very irresponsible.
    A single soldier who knows he is gonna deploy, should NOT acquire a dog.
    Unless he has guaranteed the well being of the dog. (he did not)
    If you cannot be responsible taking care of your pet/family.
    Then by golly don’t have it, just to let others take care of it!

    The article says he has owned the dog less then 2 years.
    His last deployment was for another 9 months, so how many deployments has he actually had?
    His friend has cared for the dog most of the dogs short life. Lt. Harker “owned” the dog, yet he only came to the boarders place to visit it.
    We don’t have much info on the “friend” to fairly judge him/her. Or the reason why they got rid of the dog. Was the boarder a love interest? Or it could of been for medical, financial, housing conditions etc.

    WE just don’t know, as it was written so one sided!!

    I leave you with this thought.
    What kind of responsible dog owner, would you say Lt. Harker is?
    Hopefully the dog is now in the home, of a RESPONSIBLE owner!


    This is from the original CNN article.

    “Whenever Harker was in the United States, Oakley would go with him. And whenever he deployed, his beloved dog would be left with a friend.

    That’s what happened last year, when the lieutenant left Oakley with someone he described as a “good friend” before he headed off to Afghanistan.

    “Every time, while I was gone, I asked about him,” Harker said, recalling how his friend would insist Oakley was “doing good (and) acting like his regular self. “I’d ask for a picture every now and then. But I never got any pictures sent to me.”

    Harker learned the truth as he was flying back to Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington.”

    Soldier returns from Afghanistan to learn his beloved dog is gone –

    **** NOTE ****

    Dogs On Deployment

    Here’s a link where you can support this organization.
    Either with a donation or by signing up to care for a dog whose owner is deployed.

  4. Jeneen Gabriel on

    As an Army Brat and animal lover whose father went to Vietnam 5 times because others did not go. Would you take the Lieutenant’s place in Afghanistan? Will you go into fire and hell as a first responder the next time someone decides to blow up innocent people as in Boston? And now you want to deny the man his dog?
    If you are not willing to fight and die for your right of free speech as the lieutenant was, shut your cake hole!

  5. Griz,
    I agree with you on all points about the single soldier lifestyle not being compatible with having pets.

    I’m a retired Army NCO who loves dogs and cats. My spouse and I purposely did not get dogs until my spouse left the Army and we bought a house with a large, fenced yard. Then when I did have to leave for long deployments the dogs stayed in their own home with one of their own ‘pet parents’.

  6. I hope LT.Harker finds Oakley healthy & happy. I rescued a beautiful 2 year old red bone blood hound from our local pond …he was asked to be put down ,,,This was a divorce case the wife was mad …Being a wife of a ret military man I was able to talk her out of this…and able to get more info on the young man who left for deployment in Afghanistan ..I wrote him and sent pictures of Mr Dawson and told him on his return he could have him back that he was loved an very happy dog..He did return and saw That Dawson was ok and being he was now single that Dawson could stay with us ..We still send letters and pictures …. Sir there is still hope ….

  7. Gosh, maybe people who deploy should not have kids, either. Really, a man and is dog – who would not bend over backwards to help this guy while he was out of the country. I have been following the story and hope there is a happy ending. And those of you who have negative comments – take them somewhere else.

  8. I completely agree with Griz. I find it very irresponsible for anyone to get a pet knowing very well they could be deployed at any moment. And where was he keeping the dog while he was at work before the deployment? In that crate or in that room all day? Sounds to me like this 1LT does not make very sound desicions….

  9. @Griz, that makes no sense, then people shouldnt get married or have kids because they know they are getting deployed! He had the dog two years straight and THEN he got deployed 9 months. clear?
    Just share this article so that more people see it and keep your ideas to yourself.

  10. Hey Griz and the rest. Why do anything, we might die tomorrow, no spouse no kids no pet no job. Why bother, How irresponsible He had a dog he loved and perhaps a person he only thought was his friend to care for it in his absence. I hope he gets his dog back , even if he might die in a car accident on the way to pick him up, how irresponsible of him to die. the kid may not be career military at this point just serving his country for the likes of all of us with our varied opinions. . I raise dogs, I take them back to care for if I have people in a situation where they need to place them somewhere and I will give them back to the owners if their situation changes and they can have them back. Lt Harker if you cannot find your bud. Let me know , I have a Rottweiler for you and I will take him back if you are deployed.

  11. PACT for Animals is a 501(c)(3) that connects pre-screened foster families with military members, and local hospital patients, who need temporary pet care. I wish Brandon had known about our organization, because this horror story is exactly what we are here to prevent. We are currently in the PA-NY area but aim to expand throughout the entire USA within 5 years, so that Brandon and Oakley’s experience will never happen again. Please go to our website or call 610-581-4141 for more info, to donate, or to become a foster family yourself. We thank the military for their service to our country, I hope we can give them some peace of mind and hope in return.

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