Skip to main content

Soldier returns from Afghanistan to learn his beloved dog is gone

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 2:46 AM EDT, Sat July 27, 2013
1st Lt. Brandon Harker says he returned from deployment in Afghanistan to find the friend he'd left his dog, Oakley, with had given away the dog.
1st Lt. Brandon Harker says he returned from deployment in Afghanistan to find the friend he'd left his dog, Oakley, with had given away the dog.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 1st Lt. Brandon Harker left last year for Afghanistan, leaving his dog with a "good friend"
  • The dog was gone when he returned; he doesn't know if it was sold or given away
  • Harker uses Craigslist to ask for help: "I'd just like him back, safe and sound"
  • The yellow lab, Oakley, loves to play and snuggle with whomever, whenever

(CNN) -- A purebred yellow Labrador retriever, Oakley likes to run, swim and get into most everything -- "whether it's trouble or not," his owner 1st Lt. Brandon Harker affectionately says.

And as much as anything, Oakley enjoys cuddling wherever, with whomever. That's just what Harker wanted to do with him this month, when he got back from a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Except Oakley was gone. The friend with whom Harker had left Oakley said he'd gotten rid of the dog.

"I'd just like to get him back, safe and sound," Harker said Friday night. "That's about it."

1st Lt. Brandon Harker plays with Oakley before being deployed.  1st Lt. Brandon Harker plays with Oakley before being deployed.
1st Lt. Brandon Harker plays with Oakley before being deployed.1st Lt. Brandon Harker plays with Oakley before being deployed.

About a year after joining the Army, Harker got the playful lab over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, while he was at Fort Benning in western Georgia.

Describing him sweetly as "a very big baby," Harker said Oakley loved to snuggle.

"It doesn't matter who it was, he'd try to crawl up on your lap."

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.

"What do you mean you got rid of my dog?" he told his friend.

In the few days since coming back, Harker has been on a mission. He posted a plea to find Oakley on Craigslist, noting that he didn't know if the dog had been sold or given away -- something he'd been told happened in May, though Harker isn't so sure.

That online item describes Oakley as being "good with kids and other dogs," with darker yellow spots on his face and going down his sides and legs. He is registered to Harker and has a microchip identifying device, and is a few days shy of being 2 years, 4 months old.

Writes the soldier: "If anyone has any information on this and can help me, please do."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
updated 2:08 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Hamas: "Lift the siege." Israel: "End the rockets." The two sides' demands will be difficult to reconcile.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Malaysia Airlines' Hugh Dunleavy about how the airline industry needs to react to MH17.
updated 4:42 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, and baroque theaters to block-long warehouses, these stores make bookish travelers look stylish.
updated 2:57 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
After just one day of competition, a new sport has emerged at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: snapping selfies with the Queen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT