How to Make Sure Your Friend Doesn’t Sell Your Dog


When Brandon Harker returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord from Afghanistan early this month he was looking forward to picking-up his two-year-old Labrador Retriever, Oakley, which he had given to a friend to take care of while he was gone.

So imagine his surprise when he called the friend who had his dog to arrange pick-up and discovered that his dog was no longer there.

“I was told that Oakley was gone when I was on a layover coming back to the United States. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. It’s heartbreaking,” he told the Seattle Pets Examiner “My friend just said they ‘got rid of him’ – they never gave me any other explanation. He would say ‘I don’t know who we gave him to’ and ‘I don’t know their phone number.’ I just want him back.”

Harker launched what has turned into a major media campaign to locate his lost pooch. He’s been calling local shelters, vets and posted an ad to Craigslist in hopes that whoever has the dog will see them and hand it back over.

While Harker had a friend hang onto his dog due to a deployment (where he absolutely could not have taken Oakley with him) we know that military life is full of instances in which your family may need to temporarily re-home your pet. For example, if you own a banned-breed or are PCSing during the summer when heat-base flying restrictions are in place, you may not be able to take your animal OCONUS.

So what do you do?

Here at Household Bushatz we have already developed a just-in-case contingency plan for our “terrier mix” — my in-law’s farm in Ohio. The dog goes full on native there. At this point I think she likes them more than us.

But many military families are not so lucky.

So if you must temporarily re-home your pet outside a place you know for certain they will be loved, how do you make sure he’s still there when you get back?

The folks at Pets for Patriots have a few suggestions over on today. They have some great advice for servicemembers who need to re-home thanks to deployment. Here’s what they had to say for those of us who need a non-deployment solution:

If for whatever reason your only option is leaving your beloved pet with a friend or family member, first ask yourself:

— Can this person manage my pet’s physical needs?
— Does this person have an existing and positive relationship with my pet?
— Can I provide all of the necessary resources to ensure my pet’s care in my absence?
— Can this person reasonably maintain my pet’s daily routines?
— Does this person live in a residence or municipality that allows the type of pet (usually a dog) that I have?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to each of these questions, the next step is to execute a foster agreement. An example foster agreement between a pet owner and foster is available through Dogs On Deployment, however, they do not endorse its legality and – like all legal documents – you must consult your attorney prior to executing the agreement. Once completed, make sure your attorney has a copy of the dually signed agreement, and keep another copy in a safe deposit box or other similarly secure location. It’s essential to have a signed agreement, even if the foster is a family member or friend.

I don’t know what kind of relationship Brandon Harker had with his friend who was taking care of his dog for him. I don’t know if he called to check on Oakley while he was gone.

But I do know that careful planning should help other families avoid a similar fate.

Do you have a plan for if you need to temporarily re-home your pet?



Pets for Patriots® saves lives by connecting veteran and service members of the United States military with shelter pets in need of a loving home. Operating nationally, the charity is one of the only organizations in the country dedicated to both at-risk pets and military personnel, at any stage of their careers and from all armed forces. Pets for Patriots is a proud member of the Army AW2 Wounded Warrior Program national community support network, a Real Warriors Campaign national partner organization and is listed by the National Resource Directory for ill and wounded veterans. Pets for Patriots, Inc., is a registered 501(c)(3) charity; learn more online to find out how you can Be A Pet’s Hero™.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • Heather

    We have had animals throughout our 18 years of marriage. Luckily only one time did we need to send our dog to ‘grandma and grandpa’ for about 9 months. We would never have gotten animals in the first place if we didn’t have a contingency plan for them. i.e. going overseas and couldn’t take them, leaving somewhere we couldn’t have animals, etc. And we definitely would never leave them with a ‘friend’. I am not sure why a single soldier would even get an animal in the first place knowing they may have to deploy. I mean, if they knew they could send fido to grandma and grandpa or someone trustworthy that’s one thing, but to not think it out is really this young soldiers own negligence. Sure, the dude who gave the dog away is a bonehead, putting it politely, but it really comes back to the soldier’s responsibility in not insuring before getting the dog he had a secure place to send him in this situation. On a side note, if this was a pure bred lab, the guy who had the dog may have actually sold him.

  • Kevin

    “How to make sure your friend doesn’t sell your dog?” Ummm, don’t have friends that are d!cks.

    • shezim

      I think I would put that guy in the “ex-friend” column.
      We’ve taken care of a puppy for a single soldier. Granted, it was only for 6 weeks but we did house train the little guy while “Daddy” was gone. .

  • sabrinacking

    I wonder many things about this story…Was he paying to feed and groom this dog while he was gone? Maybe they just couldn’t take the financial burden. Was the dog not micro-chipped? I mean if you live on post pretty much anywhere it has to be micro chipped. We had a Pomeranian we PCS’d with clear to Louisiana from WA. While we were in temporary lodging she got stolen out of the vet kennel, or somehow did a great prison escape. Sure enough, pay day came around and someone went to register her at the same vet clinic, micro chip got them a nice trip to the MPs and me my dig back.

    • Brian

      Yes in one of the links it says the dog is chipped and registered.

      • sabrinacking

        So, we can hope then that he is eventually found when taken to a vet.

  • thinkinoutloud

    “don’t know who we gave him to” and “don’t know their phone number” – I’m thinkin something happened to this poor guy’s pooch and the “friend” is FOS/covering, just a hunch though…hopefully that’s not what happened and the dog turns up

  • Love Dogs

    This is definitely something that needs to be considered way, way before someone gets a pet. Not just by military, by everyone. I see a lot of single service members that get pets almost as soon as they’re out on their own, for companionship and maybe just to have something stable in their life, but not everyone has these types of plans. Especially if you get sent far away from family and friends, then what do you do? I know that many boarding facilities will give discounts for long stays and also to military in general, that sounds like a much better option where you know the animal will be taken care of. There’s also Dogs on Deployment, which has a lot more security built in than just giving a pet to a friend to take care of. I’d never do it without a contract, even with a friend, since things like illnesses, escapes, and behavior problems do happen.

    • Amy_Bushatz

      Bunches of resources are in the article I linked. Check it out!

  • ???

    Story sounds like BS. I’m sure this “friend” did something worse to his dog. And why would you leave your dog with an obvious idiot? What kind of person would just get rid of someone else’s dog behind their back? Did you know this guy for a week or something before you deployed?

  • karen

    did he ever get the dog back? hope so, but i tend to agree with some others who say ‘the guy sold the dog if it was ‘full blooded’ yellow lab. ! just keep it in front of the public eye, F.B., Twitter, NEWSPAPERS, etc. sooner or later , IF the dog is still living it might show up!
    BTW not all dog owners are RESPONSIBLE , my nephew is trying to give ‘away’ a beautiful yellow lab and a full blooded Wimeramera ! of course he was a ‘bachelor’ when he got them, and has since married with child , so guess he’s making a decision based on things we are not aware of, but still he was soooo proud of this lab as a pup that he put pix up daily on FB, so all could watch him grow. and actually even after he married. he showed him off. NOW he decides he can’t be bothered. guess he should have thought of this before he married not blaming the new wife, but it seems funny huh?

    • Barbara Fiedler

      Well, we have a Weimaraner, and have had several!! They are very kid friendly! So they must just be tired of the dogs! Labs are notorious for being kid friendly also. Wish I could have his Weimie!!

  • CDS

    When I got my dog, I actually brought my parents with me to the shelter (luckily, I was stationed at a base near my hometown, so I was living in the same neighborhood as they were). We all knew that I might deploy, so the dog had to be able to get along with them, particularly my mother who would be home all day with it.

    I’ve had my dog for almost two years, during which she has spent time with my parents almost every day so that, if and when I must deploy or PCS to a location that won’t let me her with me, she is completely comfortable with her “grandparents” and they are comfortable with her.

  • Lynne

    Deployments: guardian Angels for Soldiers Pets. They foster pets until the Soldeirs come home….. free, except for cost of food and any vet bills. No placement fees, or application fees.

  • I’m retired Military ..I’ve been a Foster Dad for a local dog adoption group for 13You months..
    We recently pulled a 10 month old American Staffordshire Terrier from animal control..I will be fostering Lexie in my home for the next year while Her Momma’s deployed with the Coast Guard….

    • Trudie L.

      Thanks for doing this!!!

  • Hi, we are PACT for Animals, a NPO that connects pre-screened foster families in the Philadelphia PA area with military members and local hospital patients who need temporary pet care. I wish Brandon had known about our organization and reached out. We are currently in the PA-NY area but aim to expand throughout the entire USA within 5 years, so that horror stories like Brandon’s never happen again. Please go to our website or call 610-581-4141 for more info, to donate, or 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.

    • Guest

      Anyone giving another trust in caring for their animal family member takes a risk. Whether that trust is
      given to a friend, or an organization, the military person is in a very vulnerable position. Often so
      many mixed emotions occurring at once can result in choices made that at any other time, would be made with much closer scrutiny and thought.
      I think there are many organizations in our country that begin with altruistic ideals, and spent many years preparing for there part in supporting the sacrifices of our military families. But not unlike agencies whose mission is to service the elderly, or disabled etc. once the non profit wheels start to turn a great portion of the focus is fund raising which becomes a political representation.
      There are groups that seek the feedback of a Board that can help them remain objective and prevent
      the kind of outcome that results in the loss of a military family, when other options might be available.

  • renieldargon

    We had a wonderful border collie that we had to put to sleep last fall after 14 1/2 years and she has left a huge hole in our household. She was the best company when my hubby was deployed or TDY and she helped me keep a more normal schedule since we always walked 2-3 times a day. She became a pro at moving and was one of the most well-traveled dogs around as she shared eight duty stations with us (including two overseas)! One of the really great things about having a dog is that at every new duty station, I met our neighbors quickly because we were always out walking or playing.

  • I simply find it awkward that someone and particularly my friend will sell my dog without my consent and when i am not yet dead.

  • I don’t recognize what sort of relationship Brandon Harker had with his companion who was dealing with his puppy for him. I don’t know whether he called to beware of Oakley while he was no more.