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Soldier returns from war, finds his dog was given away or sold

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LAKEWOOD, Wash. — A Joint Base Lewis-McChord  soldier was devastated when he returned home from deployment to find his dog was missing — and possibly sold on Craigslist.

soldier’s missing dog #1

JBLM soldier Brandon Harker turns to social media to find his missing dog, believed to be sold during his deployment.

Brandon Harker returned last week after an 8-month deployment to Afghanistan. He was excited to see Oakley, his 2-year-old purebred yellow Labrador retriever.

Harker had asked a friend to take care of Oakley while he was deployed. When he contacted the friend to pick him up, he was told the dog had been given away.

He turned to social media to find his dog and was contacted by numerous people who said they’d seen Oakley listed for sale in February on Craigslist. Harker has been calling local veterinarians and shelters, hoping for word on his dog since Oakley is micro-chipped and registered.

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

To see the Craigslist ad or to contact Harker, click here.

soldier’s missing dog

Oakley is a two-year-old purebred yellow labrador retriever.

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    • perlhaqr

      I hope his "friend" gets eaten by a pack of rabid ladybugs.

      Because it would be really embarrassing, take a really long time, and really hurt.

      And then it could go on his tombstone. "I was a jerk who gave away a deployed soldier's dog, and then I was eaten by ladybugs".

      Like, what is next on this person's agenda? Knocking over a nun in a wheelchair? Mocking people with Down's Syndrome? Stealing candy from children?

      When they finally get run over by karma, it'll actually need to be bus-ma to have adequate amplitude.

  • Diane Kruczek

    I shared with my Facebook friends, many are affiliated with animal shelters and groups. Where is Lakewood located and what region was the Craigslist posting? That will help narrow down the search.

  • Aaron

    Diane – Lakewood is located just south of Tacoma and neighbors Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Most likely region is the Tacoma region, but Olympia would also be close enough to consider, as would King County/Seattle.

      • Charlene

        Sorry…I just re=read this and found that it is in Washington so not New Jersey. I am so sorry this happened to someone who put his life on the line for us to remain free. Im praying for you both to be reunited! Ill post as well.

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  • Leeah

    What a dirtbag to do such a thing! I suppose I'm not as nice as this poor kid. I would have spammed this friend's name all across the internet. Why do I have a feeling it's some girl? I've posted to my facebook and hope he gets his dog back.

  • Stephanie Taylor

    It's a shame he did not know of the organization, Guardian Angels for Soldiers Pet… .www.guardianangelsforsoldierpet.org. They are a nationwide non-profit that finds loving fosters for soldiers or veterans being deployed or experiencing temporary hardship. This would have never happened.. I pray he gets his dog back. Don't be shocked…"friends" and "stateside spouses" do this all the time.

    • Smitty

      That's a little harsh to lump stateside spouses in. While I'm sure there is a bitter ex who would stoop that low, as a military spouse, I cannot imagine giving away my husband's pet. That's shameful. Some of us have tact. But you are right, I hope next time he uses something like the Guardian Angels program and does get Oakley back.

  • Debbie

    low life this man is serving our country in the highest manner and this douche gets rid of the one true thing he wanted to make sure was going to be there when he returned KARMA baby will come back and bite that person in the a$$ and I hope it gets infected sending prayers that this soldier gets his dog back

  • Viv

    While I think it is horrible that this person gave the man's dog away, I have to think that there is more to the story that is not being told. Working rescue, we come across innumerable dogs where someone asked a neighbor or friend to "just watch him/her/them for a while and I'll be back for them". Too often the person is never heard from again. Even more often, no financial support is provided for the pet while the person is away, leaving the "pet sitter" with lots of expense and time commitment caring for animals that they never wanted in the first place.

    SO I have to wonder–Did the soldier stay in contact to let the person know that he was still alive and returning? Did he provide financially for the dog while he was away?

    I just think there was more to the situation than we are being told.

    • MN"Nice"

      Aren't you special. This soldier set up to have his dog taken care of until his return. We know our responsibility whether to Country or dog. Our dogs are our life lines especially after being gone to war. Put your head back in the sand.

      • Viv

        How do you know that he set up to care for the dog? How do you know that he paid for its care and kept in contact to let the person know he was in fact returning? Dogs are abandoned way too often with people saying they will be back for them, leaving the dog-sitter with a huge bill for its care, a dog they don't want, and no contact from the person leaving it behind. Asking a friend to care for the dog isn't the same as leaving money to feed and provide vet care for the dog. Nor is saying you will be back the same as staying in contact by whatever means available–and soldiers can at least write letters at a minimum–to let the person know you will be back for sure. Without either of those, the person had no way of knowing if the soldier would return. Don't crucify the person if you don't know that the soldier did everything he was supposed to do to provide for his fur-child the same way he would if his child was human.

        • Anonymous

          How do you know he didn’t take the necessary steps? This man is an officer in the U.S. Army who certainly knows of the responsibility. Regardless of whether we are being told all of the story, the main concern should be finding the dog, not degrading the soldier. Even if he didn’t keep in touch, a GOOD person would keep the dog until he returned. There is no justification for this action.

          • Viv

            You can't assume either way. That's why in my first post, I said that there needs to be more information before attacking the friend. It has nothing to do with them being a "good" person or not. It has to do with the fact that it is very expensive to care for an animal and if you are never contacted again, you have no way of knowing what happened to the owner. You would never expect someone to care for your kids for a year without any contact or financial support for those kids. It is a crime to do that. Pets are the same.

            And if the soldier DID provide financially for it, then he can have that person arrested for theft. If the soldier DID stay in contact, why didn't he know the dog was gone long before calling to go pick him up?

          • LenMe

            8 months does not seem like a very long time to me to take care of someone's dog. But you do have a point… how did he NOT know the dog was gone before heading over to pick him up.

          • Tara

            I assume he didn't know because his friend DIDN"T TELL HIM. Unless he's psychic he'd have NO WAY of knowing unless his friend told him…which he didn't bother to do until the man was on his way to pick up his dog. Seriously, if the dog was a burden or an inconvenience how hard would it have been to ask Mr. Harker to make other arrangements? How much of a sociopath do you need to be to have your first option be giving away or selling the dog of a friend who will eventually show up expecting to get that dog back?

          • ShKr

            If you read his ad, you'll see that every time he asked his "friend" about the dog, that person said he was doing well, be refused to send pictures or anything. So he didn't know until he was back.

          • Sam

            It does have to do with being a "good" person. A person with a conscious would not give away someone else's dog without permission. Regardless of whether he was in contact with them or not. Would you do it? I wouldn't.

            Maybe you're right and the soldier neglected to pay. I just don't believe giving away the dog can be justified. Assuming he was in the wrong, is just as bad as attacking the "friend".

            The soldier found out the dog was gone in transit back to America. Obviously the person just didn't tell him while he was gone. That's not that hard to believe.

          • Viv

            I foster dogs that have been rescued. You would be horrified at how many dogs are abandoned with situations that look just like this one, with no contact, no financial support, and an owner that never returns. How long would you wait with no contact if someone left you with a dog you did not want and could not afford?

          • Sierra

            Viv, PUH-LEEZE…there is NO WAY you actively work a legitimate rescue and say these things about surrenders and checks, etc…NO WAY.there would at least be a paperwork trail for this poor guy to follow if so. First off, the POS "friend" SOLD the dog…did NOT give it away or surrender it because they couldnt keep it due to finances, not knowing if the soldier was alive( as he WAS writing and asking regularly) or even out of concern and compassion for the dog..PUHLEEZE. FIRST thing a rescue does is scan for a chip….same with shelters and vets AND take your info and any you have on the dog….this POS SOLD that dog FOR $$$ PLAIN AND SIMPLE….and LIED to the owner repeatedly. You either know or are related to the POS who did this…or you are a moron. ANYONE knows deployments last months and usually 2 or so years and p.s. GUESS WHAT??? I FOSTER AND RESCUE TOO…hard dogs, traumatized dogs, abandoned dogs, abused dogs, well loved dogs poeple surrendered the PROPER way… so dont lecture me or anyone else about how things are "handled" or try to defend the POS that did this.And please dont forget the fact that this was done to an INNOCENT VUNERABLE CREATURE and to someone who fights to give you the right to your free idiotic speech. Sorry for the caps everyone, this person's attitude is beyond rediculous.

          • TCat

            You're talking like this man simply went on vacation and said "I'll be back, uh, sometime…see ya!" He was DEPLOYED. The agreement from the BEGINNING was that he would be gone for a length of time! If the "friend" was unable to care for the dog for such a long time, KNOWING the man was being deployed and would not be back for some time, he never should have agreed to it. It does not matter if the person stayed in contact or not – the agreement from the beginning was that it would be for a deployment. It's not exactly a huge surprise to most people that a deployment lasts more than a week or two.

          • Viv

            And unless you are one of the people involved, you have no way of knowing what the agreement was or what either party believed. So, rather than trying to turn the friend into some evil monster without a trial, I think people should consider that there may be a lot that the public is not being told about the situation.

            Yes, deployment lasts longer than a few weeks. But still, there is the matter of the expense in this horrible economy. Did something happen that the person could no longer afford to care for the dog if the soldier did not pay for its care? Did the person move and be unable to take the dog with them? Did they find out that it was more time to care for the dog than they had? Did they really understand how long the deployment was going to be? And if they had not heard anything from the soldier–which I sort of have to wonder about since the guy didn't know anything until he got home–did they think he was dead or relocated and not coming back? How close of a friendship was this? Was it too much to have asked of a casual acquaintance to turn their life upside down (and yes, pets do that just like children)?

            You are making huge assumptions about what the friend may or may have not known or done. And what I'm saying is that there isn't enough information to call this person evil for something that may have been, at least in part, the fault of the dog's owner.

          • TCat

            And I am saying, you have absolutely no right to blame the owner for thinking he'd found a safe place to leave his dog while on deployment, only to have been betrayed. If they "didn't understand how long the deployment would be", they had no business taking the dog in the first place – you say you work in foster care, and yet you think that's ACCEPTABLE for someone to do without understanding? In *any one* of those situations, there are alternatives to selling the dog – finding another friend, a family member of yours or the soldier's, a foster program for soldiers. Giving away/selling the dog on Craigslist should have never been an option, and I don't care if you "didn't understand how long the deployment was going to be", it was *absolutely* an irresponsible thing to have done.

          • Sierra

            TCat dont bother…that person is either involved or an idiot. I pity any animal left in her care , whether she considers herself a "rescuer" or not.

    • Megaera

      Do some research…he's on FB if you want to talk to him on Dogs on Deployment.

      "Brandon Harker Ok just for the record:
      1. I DID keep in contact with the person who was watching Oakley everyday that I could while I was deployed.
      2. The person had my parents number they could have called to send Oakley back to live with them in Pennsylvania.
      3. I asked about him everyday and was told he was doing great being his usual self. I even asked for pictures of him but was always told I'll send you some later.
      4. It was not until the day I got home that I was told about this entire incident. And since then I have been trying to find him to get him home where he belongs and I know he is safe, well feed, has a roof over his head and is getting the love and attention he deserves.
      5. This is not a hoax, I WOULD NOT do this for attention I have better ways to spend my time then making things up and being immature.
      6. My gmail is down due to a high volume of emails being received. This is the second time in 24 hrs.
      7. I would like to thank each and everyone of you for all your help in support.
      2 hours ago · Edited · Unlike · 31"

    • Smitty

      Do your research. He did keep in constant contact with the person watching Oakley. So quick to judge. Shame on you.

  • karen

    I wouldn't let this "friend" take care of my dead snake! I pray whoever has him will have enough love in their heart to give him back to his real dad.
    As for the "friend" Karma baby

  • Guest2013

    He doesn't need those kind of "friends" and this so-called "friend" didn't even let tell him that he'd given his dog away. UNBELIEVABLE!

  • Tara

    Has Mr. Harker filed a police report? Pets are "property", and since Oakley was given away or sold without his permission, that could qualify as theft. This "friend" should have to explain his actions in a court of law.

    • Viv

      And if Mr. Harker had not provided for the dog's care and remained in contact, it could also be considered animal abandonment and he be charged instead. We really don't know the full story here.

      • Tara

        Which is why I used the word "could". You've reiterated this point several times. Why are you so determined to find a way to redistribute blame to the owner who was overseas? Whatever extenuating circumstances you seem to feel MUST exist to excuse the caretaker's behavior, it seems fairly clear that the "friend" caring for the dog never told Mr. Harker that Oakley had to go before he returned to reclaim the dog, nor does it seem that he made any efforts to find foster care if the dog was a financial burden, or request that Mr. Harker do so.

        Please notice that I said "seem" before you start going on again about animal abandonment and lack of provision for the dog.

      • anneliese

        Brandon Harker Ok just for the record:
        1. I DID keep in contact with the person who was watching Oakley everyday that I could while I was deployed.
        2. The person had my parents number they could have called to send Oakley back to live with them in Pennsylvania.
        3. I asked about him everyday and was told he was doing great being his usual self. I even asked for pictures of him but was always told I'll send you some later.
        4. It was not until the day I got home that I was told about this entire incident. And since then I have been trying to find him to get him home where he belongs and I know he is safe, well feed, has a roof over his head and is getting the love and attention he deserves.
        5. This is not a hoax, I WOULD NOT do this for attention I have better ways to spend my time then making things up and being immature.
        6. My gmail is down due to a high volume of emails being received. This is the second time in 24 hrs.
        7. I would like to thank each and everyone of you for all your help in support.

        • Anneliese

          So his "friend" could have given the dog to a different responsible party at anytime if necessary. Instead the "friend" sold the dog on craigslist…he claimed he was given away but according to the article, people saw the dog FOR SALE on craigslist, which means money changed hands most likely. In addition, the "friend" at no point mentioned he no longer had the dog,,,instead he lied that the dog was in his possession and fine. Also the "friend" claimed he gave him away in May, but the ads selling Oakley were seen in February. I think that pretty much settles the who is the bad guy of this story.

      • Bayushi

        Viv, it is obvious in this discussion thread that you have some serious issues.

        Go resolve your issues, whatever they may be. Just resolve them somewhere else. Unless we are provided information to the contrary as to what 'actually happened' to Oakley, you have no business casting aspersions on the young Soldier's character.

        So, in other words, don't post again. You've done nothing but make libelous accusations with no foundation in evidence.

        You have been shown the door, little girl. Don't let it hit you on the way out.

  • bpgagirl22

    My heart goes out to him! The first thing I did when I adopted my baby Josey (Beagle-Walker Hound) was I got her chipped ASAP. In fact, I took her to a dog show and two separate hunters came up to me and asked me if she was for sale! I told them both "Buddy, there is no amount in this world enough to buy her! Good day!" I'm posting this everywhere I can and ALL YA'LL BE SURE TO POST THIS STORY AS WELL ON FACEBOOK's LAB PAGES. THERE's A TON OF FOLKS WHO READ THOSE PAGES! That could generate a lot of response hopefully. I sure hope he gets this beauty back!

  • bpgagirl22

    Why isn't the video of this story viewable? I've tried repeatedly and can't get it to play! And yes, my equipment is current.

  • honeypearl2013

    My prayers are with you Brandon, I hope you are reunited with Oakley very soon! I know how much you love and miss him but never give up on God, he helped me find my dog Digger after 78 days of him being missing. And it seemed like every time I was ready to give up God would give me a sign not to, for one of a few examples, (one day I was ready to give up after driving my regularly scheduled search area, including the pound, and as I sat at a red light a bumper sticker on the car in front of me said, "Never give up on God") my heart was lifted and I didn't give up and after 78 days I found him safe and well but a little skinnier because he was fending for himself out on his own with God looking out for him because I prayed every day and I trusted that the good Lord would let me find him and boy that was one of the happiest days of my life!

  • Molly

    And I'll bet Washington's finest aren't going to do jack squat about this either. We had a registered black lab stolen from us by a so called "friend" and when we contacted the police about the issue they really just could not give to figs about the situation. Just disgusting. Herpes. Herpes is what happens to dog thieves.

  • Emily

    Is it bad that, while I am upset that his dog was given away, I am even more enraged by the description of the dog as “Purebred”? You already established it was a yellow lab, and not a mutt, so why throw in “purebred”? To be a snob about the dog’s pedigree? To prove that he probably paid five times as much as it costs to adopt a dog in need from a shelter? Because the author is a DOG-NAZI? It’s a dog, your priority should be to have a healthy, happy companion, not a “pure” nazi dog >_>

    • guest

      I thought it was just because of the distinct unusual markings, the different colored spots of fur, that would make the dog stand out to people who know the breed. Like rescue groups etc.

    • Judi

      Emily, when you are trying to get your SPECIFIC dog back after it has been taken you need to be as SPECIFIC as possible in order to have the best chance of getting your SPECIFIC dog back. If it was my dog it would have said Husky/Yellow Lab MIX with coat color and other defining characteristics and markings that are SPECIFIC to my dog. Stating 'Purebred' covers/discloses many, many characteristics of the SPECIFIC breed being searched for. What exactly is there to be 'enraged' about?? Last time I was at the Shelter, where my dog came from, there were purebreds there. You appear to have an inferiority complex about some aspect of your life which has caused you to reply in such an un-informed manner. Sad. Working on that will improve the happiness level of your life. Good luck – you only live once!

  • agrippamom

    The so-called friend should be taken into a room and beaten senseless until he tells Mr. Harker who he sold Oakley to. It takes a really low form of life to do this to someone, much less a person who is overseas serving his country.

  • laura

    This seems to be happening to quite a few people when deployed…. so sad. If you have his dog, please return.
    LETS show how social media can be used for GOOD. FLOOD the internet. I have posted all over.

  • Linda D

    I sincerely hope Brandon and Oakley are reunited. We hope others who see this comment will share our website with your family, friends, co-workers, active duty military service members, and veterans our website http://www.guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org. Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet began back in January 2005 to assist our military and veteran communities with pets to ensure the pets were reunited with their owners following a deployment (combat or peacekeeping or humanitarian mission) or a medical/homelessness situation impacting our veterans in identifying a potential foster home via our national foster home network to ensure these beloved pets are in a caring and safe home while their military/veteran legal pet owner need such assistance.

  • Guest

    I hope the owner will honor this soldier by returning his dog, and if he wants compensation, the public or good samaritans will come forward with the funds. A dog is destined to find his soul mate and who with a clean conscience before God and country who has this dog, can deny that destiny?

  • bring Oakley home

    To the anonymous poster defending the A$$ who robbed a member of the US arm forces who is defending our freedoms as Americans…
    Are you the so called “friend in question? I wonder why you would vehemently defend such a shifty, unscrupulous character??? When it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…it must be a duck. Of course in this case duck means POS (piece of $hit) just in case you can’t read between the lines. You protest a little too much!!!

  • JJJ

    There is also Dogs On Deployment for anyone else who deployes or (goes on extended trained etc) and needs to find someone to watch their pet .

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  • K9trainer

    What a Douchebag! The soldier needs forget about this friend. He cannot be trusted. Karma will be rewarding that kind of heartless behavior. ……..
    And BTW Emily, STFU and focus on the issue outlined in the article. There is no need to make the event about you and your cause.




  • Guest

    I would have to assume this was a female who did this. Only a jilted wife or girlfriend would do something so heinous. I hope he gets his dog back, this is just sad.