Seamus Fennessy and Áine with Mattie the lovable Labrador
By Ray O’Hanlon
Mattie the dog has been moved to Texas. And a protest is set to move along the streets of Manhattan on May 1.
As previously reported, the Fennessy family of New Jersey came to love Mattie during the time that Seamus Fennessy partnered the adorable canine while working for a security company.
Seamus lives with his wife Deirdre and their daughter Áine in Old Bridge, New Jersey.
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Another daughter, Olivia, is away in college.
And Mattie is far, far away, in the Lone Star State.
Seamus is familiar to many Echo readers. He is probably the only member of the United States Army who patrolled the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan thinking infantry tactics in Irish.
Seamus is now a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard. Before that he was working for a security company along with his partner “my bomb-sniffing K9 Mattie” who is close to retirement, but, as far as the Fennessys are concerned, is being held in inhumane confinement.
“We’re the only family she has ever known,” Seamus said of Mattie.
“But the company I worked for has torn her from our family and left us devastated and it is in their power to do the right thing and return her to us.”
The company in question is MSA Security.
Mattie, the dog in question, is a seven-year-old Black Labrador.
There is a petition aimed at securing Mattie’s return to the Fennessys and it is at https://www.change.org/p/msa-security-msa-k9-operations-keep-k9-mattie-with-her-family-stop-msa-glen-kucera-from-separating-reservists-from-k9 on Change.org.
But to underline the family’s deep feelings in the matter of Mattie, key strokes will soon be augmented by footfall.
“A protest for Mattie against MSA Security is planned for May 1 in Midtown Manhattan. The company secretly moved Mattie to Texas to get her as far away from us as possible,” said Seamus.
Deirdre Fennessy is in lockstep with her husband.
As far as she is concerned MSA, could simply allow Mattie to retire and live with her family.
According to the My Central Jersey news website, MSA’s website describes itself as America’s largest TSA-certified cargo screening canine provider, specializing in explosive detection canines.
Seamus says the company only hires police and military veterans to work as K-9 handlers.
“We do an important job, protecting important sites in the New York area,” he told MCJ.
During the time Seamus worked for MSA, Mattie was his only K-9 partner. In addition, Mattie has never worked with any other handlers.
Seamus and Deirdre acknowledge that Mattie is legally MSA’s property.
But as far as they are concerned love should, in this instance, trump letter-of-the-law legality.
Garden State politicians are taking an interest in the Mattie tale.
New Jersey State Senator Samuel Thompson (R-12th District) has written a letter to MSA Security in New York City asking for Mattie to be returned to the Fennessys.
“I agree with the family’s position,” Thompson, who has had dogs for his whole life, said in a telephone interview with MCJ. “It’s the humane thing to do, let them keep the dog.”
Thompson, in his letter to MSA, stated: “Mattie, who is undoubtedly an asset to your firm, was taken from the Fennessy household to be reassigned to another handler. However, my office found out that when handlers are called up for military service it is the usual policy of MSA Security to allow the service dog to remain in the care of the primary handler. Therefore I implore MSA Security to reconsider and reverse the decision to reassign Mattie to another handler.
Thompson told My Central Jersey that he believes separation will have a negative impact on Mattie’s mental health and work performance.
“Emotional pain and stress will be a factor in the dog’s life from the time she is removed, especially when realization sets in that Mattie has been separated from her family and the only home she had known,” Thompson said in his letter.
In the letter, Thompson said research by his office indicates that an average large breed dog is considered a senior at 5 to 6 dog years, and veterinarians have estimated that any breed of dog is considered a senior at 7 to 8 dog years.
“Senior dogs begin to lose their adaptability to the world around them because of eroding cognitive functions,” Thompson’s letter states.
“A senior dog is also prone to many diseases and they will struggle with stress more frequently. Stress can cause behavioral problems, a weak immune system and much more. With that known, these particular effects will make the dog less productive.
“If Mattie begins to show the symptoms of separation anxiety, her performance as a detection dog will not serve the company’s best interest. With this in mind, I believe removing her from the Fennessy household will create a hardship for the dog and those that love her,” Thompson’s letter states.
Thompson is himself an army veteran. He wants MSA Security to grant Mattie an early retirement which will allow her to remain with the Fennessys.
At the time of Thompson writing his letter Mattie was at an MSA facility in Connecticut.
Dogs don’t calculate separation in terms of miles. But people do.
And for the Fennessy family, Texas might as well be the other side of the world.