Back from his eight-month deployment to Afghanistan, Army 1st Lt. Brandon Harker thought he was just hours away from a reunion with his yellow Labrador retriever, Oakley.
Then he looked at his phone on a layover in Alaska on his way back to Lakewood.
In came a jolting text message from the friend who was supposed to be watching his dog, Harker said Saturday. Oakley was gone. The friend — make that former friend — had given the dog away.
To whom? To where? Why?
“I was only told: ‘given away,’” Harker said.
“They had my parents’ phone numbers and everything,” said the soldier, who is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“They could have called my parents, and they would have flown out from Pennsylvania to get him.”
A little more than a week later, Harker’s online hunt for his pet has gone viral. Tens of thousands of people have shared a post on Facebook.
CNN and other media outlets have sought him out. “Hundreds upon hundreds of emails” have poured in, so many that Harker’s email account briefly shut down.
Harker had posted an ad to Craigslist hoping to find someone who had seen the purebred pooch. He said his supposed friend claimed to have given the dog away in May, but he thinks it could have really been any time since February, the last time he saw a photo of Oakley.
Oakley’s yellow coat has spots of a darker yellow on his sides and legs. He’s about 2 years, 4 months old. The dog has an identifying microchip, Harker said.
“He was a big boy. He was about 95 to 105 pounds,” Harker said. Still, he “thinks he’s a lapdog.”
How to help
To see Brandon Harker’s Craigslist posting or to contact him, go to tinyurl.com/kgvhlqd.Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 email@example.com