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A happy ending Christmas story
Army Capt. Ross Downum shares a hug with Hunter, his dog, while sitting on a bench at Frick Veterinary Services in Larned. Hunter went missing while the pair were hunting on Dec. 17 in Pawnee County and roamed the area, before being found on Christmas Eve. The pair were reunited at Frick’s vet office on Tuesday of last week. Courtesy photo

PAWNEE COUNTY ­­­­­— For those keeping track over the holidays, some good news. Hunter the dog has been found and reunited with his owner.

Since his status was listed as missing on Dec. 18, Hunter the missing hunting dog developed a viral social media following as the Christmas holiday approached — not the least of which a continuously-updated posting on several area law enforcement websites. Hunter’s disappearance was immediately carried by the Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office website, which listed his last known position as well as vital statistics including his photo and description as a 1-year-old male German shorthair-pointer mix, wearing tags and a dog’s hunting vest.

His owner, Army Operations Capt. Ross Downum, noted that Hunter was last seen around 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 17 when they were hunting in Pawnee County. Hunter started off when they heard gunshots in the distance. 

Over the next 10 days, an anxious Capt. Downum’s posting was carried by several law enforcement and other Facebook pages in Golden Belt area, reporting sightings when possible. Downum is from California.

Hunter was finally located by some civilian searchers as he was running along a blacktop road north of Haviland in Edwards county on Christmas Eve, about 15 miles from where he went missing. He was handed over to Edwards County Sheriff’s Deputy Nate Brantley, who brought him to Frick Veterinary Services in Larned to get checked out and given food and water.

Dr. Christina Frick noted that her office contracts with several area counties and communities, including Edwards County, to receive animals for care in such cases.

When contacted last week, Dr. Frick expressed her surprise that Hunter’s story had generated such interest and was herself thankful that this Christmas story had a happy ending.

“In about 95 percent of these cases we share on Facebook, the owners are never found,” she noted this week. She said that the animals her office receives become attached to her office staff, and are sometimes adopted by her employees. “They get attached, and the feeling is mutual,” she noted.

“We’ve had different dogs that have come in, we end up adopting them out through our rescue or our local humane society. Usually, we don’t have this kind of reunion.”

Downum is from California. For Downum, who was located for comment by a Wichita television station, Hunter is more like his best friend than his pet.

“It’s like I got a member of my family back, man,” he said after the Tuesday reunion in Frick’s front office.

The Army captain had a stroke this year and is ready to medically retire from service. Downum said he relies on Hunter for support. He said each day without his dog by his side as difficult.

“I’m thankful, appreciative,” Downum said. “I know that if it wasn’t for the people of Kansas coming together, the community as a whole, this wouldn’t have happened.”