The Search for Hank: Local cancer survivor depicts journey to find missing dog

MITCH PRENTICE
Stephanie Dominique, left, sits with her friend's father Dennis Cramer shortly after retrieving Hank, bottom, Tuesday.

There’s an undeniable bond that a dog and their owner form and some are stronger than others. In the case of Stephanie Dominique and Hank, it’s the strongest possible.

Dominique spent the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 in and out of hospitals for treatment on her stage 3 breast cancer and feels lucky that her chemotherapy and radiation treatments were over before the COVID pandemic struck.

The entire time Dominique was fighting her illness, her dog Hank was by her side. She says during hospital stays and even during hard days at home, Hank would be by her side, monitoring her and making sure she had a friend by her side.

Hank, a golden lab, was found near US-54 in front of the Linn Creek Animal Hospital several years ago. The people who found him said they needed to find a home for him or else he would have been euthanized. Dominique agreed to take him in as a foster pup to see how he would interact with the other dogs already at her home. Seven years later, Hank is now Dominick’s best friend.

“He’s a pushing force for me, I’m lucky to have him,” Dominique said.

Living in Lake Ozark, Dominique says that her family likes to take trips to the countryside in Brumley to get away from the city. With their campers and fireworks in tow, the family set out to a campsite for the Fourth of July weekend.

As the family was relaxing Saturday night, she says they had put the other dogs in a barn inside their kennels for the night while they shot their fireworks. However, Hank was left to roam as Dominique says he has never been one to run off. Around 8:00 p.m., she returned to the barn to find Hank was missing. The search for Hank was on.

Dominique says they formed a search party to search the area with some people on foot, some operating four-wheelers to cover move ground and some even going as far as to operate drones to search from up high. For two and a half days, the search continued with no luck. Overall, Dominique believes there were around 50+ people helping.

“We were pulling out all the stops,” Dominique said. “I couldn’t go home without him.”

Finally, on Tuesday morning, a sighting was made at a nearby farm. Dominique says they all rushed over early in the morning. After dozens of hours of searching, Hank was found. She says he was in great condition and the couple who found him took care to give him water and food.

Dominique says that she could hardly believe the love and support shown by her friends to find Hank. She says that every farmhouse they visited welcomed them with open arms and were eager to help. In times of pandemic and divide across much of the country, she says it helped to restore her faith in humanity and the good it can achieve.

“Everybody should have the kind of people I have in my life,” Dominique said. “They knew he isn’t just a dog, he’s my fur baby and he means so much to me.”