Kansas community helps make ‘Christmas miracle’ reality for Army serviceman, dog

It was a long week for an Army servicemen in Kansas before the improbable happened just in time for Christmas.
Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 6:29 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - It was a long week for an Army servicemen in Kansas before the improbable happened just in time for Christmas. The search and eventual discovery of a dog named Hunter was a story that pulled on heartstrings. Hunter disappeared during a Dec. 17 hunting trip in central Kansas. What many deem “a Christmas miracle” happened on Christmas Eve with news that Hunter was found safe.

Tuesday, Army Operations Officer Ross Downum reunited with his companion. 12 News learned more about what led up to the joyous moment.

For Downum, 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 reuniting with Hunter.

Ten days ago, Downum was hunting with his dog in Pawnee County when there were gunshots in the distance. Hunter ran off. Downum looked in the area for days with no signs of Hunter. He posted to social media and said he was amazed at the support and help he received from Kansans.

“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 of happened.”

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.

“Been a ride. Just al the emotions came out; anger, sadness, now happiness, you know,” Downum said. “Rejoicing; it really has been a Christmas miracle, I’ll say.”

Once Hunter was found on Christmas Eve, he was brought to Frick Veterinary Services in Larned. There, staff took care of him. Dr. Christina Frick, the head veterinarian at the clinic, said she was surprised to see how Downum and Hunter’s story turned out.

“A lot of times we share on Facebook, owners are never found,” Dr. Frick said. “We’ve had some different dogs that have come in, we end up adopting them out through our rescue or our local humane society. We don’t have those reunions. So, this was a happy ending.”

Downum said the ending to the story that began with Hunter running off is the Christmas gift he was hoping for.

“Everyone keeps telling me it’s like a Hallmark movie,” he said.

After everything that’s happened, Downum said he and Hunter probably won’t be hunting again anytime soon.

“I think we’re going to press pause on that for a while,” he said. “I think we’re going to hang out at home and maybe watch a few movies or something.”