Before U.S. Army First Lieutenant Brandon Harker left for a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan, he made sure to find what he thought would be a suitable place for his dog, yellow Labrador Retriever, Oakley, to stay during his absence.
When one of Harker’s good friends agreed to watch Oakley, the soldier was relieved, believing he would be able to sleep soundly knowing his four-legged family member was looked after.
But now, after serving his country overseas, Harker is on a desperate hunt for Oakley. While Harker was in Afghanistan, his trusted friend placed an advertisement on Craigslist and either gave away or sold Oakley to an unknown person.
Harker first got Oakley in 2011, when the Retriever was just a puppy. All he hoped for during his deployment was that he’d see his dog again. The war veteran has since initiated a search for his missing dog online, in social media, and in the press, hoping against hope that his efforts will bring Oakley home. A Facebook page, “Help Find Oakley,” has become a kind of home base for online search operations.
He has even posted a “LOST DOG” ads on Craigslist — the same site his former friend used to sell Oakley in the first place — hoping someone with knowledge of Oakley’s whereabouts will come forward.
Harker has also contacted the authorities about what happened to his dog, according to the “Help Find Oakley” Facebook page, but was told not much could be done to help him.
“I’d just like to get him back, safe and sound,” Harker told CNN Friday. “That’s about it.”
According to KATU.com, it is believed Oakley was given away or sold without Harker’s permission or knowledge back in May 2013, but the incident could have happened at any point in his deployment — from November 2012 to June 2013, just before Harker’s return to the U.S.
“Every time, while I was gone, I asked about him,” Harker says of Oakley. Though he asked his friend for frequent updates and photographs of his dog, Harker says his so-called friend never sent any.
It wasn’t until Harker was on his way back to the Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington that he learned the awful truth about what his “friend” had done.
“What do you mean you got rid of my dog?” Harker remembers saying to Oakley’s caretaker and his supposed friend. When pressed for the identity of the person who purchased Oakley, the friend replied that he “didn’t know.”
Oakley is a yellow Lab with unique spots of darker, “champagne” yellow on his sides and down his legs. He is about 2 years and 4 months old, between 95 and 105 pounds, and is fitted with a microchip in First Lieutenant Harker’s name. Anyone with information about Oakley’s whereabouts is asked to contact Brandon Harker immediately through his Craigslist post, through private message on the “Help Find Oakley” Facebook page, or via email at [email protected].