Seamus and Áine with Mattie
By Ray O’Hanlon
If the company won’t free Mattie, then Mattie’s family will offer to buy her freedom.
Mattie the dog would contribute if she could.
Deirdre and Seamus Fennessy just want Mattie to be home with them and the idea of fundraising to free Mattie is a last throw of the dice in a saga stretching back more time than they ever wanted, or anticipated.
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Seamus is familiar to 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.
Séamus Ó Fianghusa is his name As Gaeilge.
He is a former Irish Echo 40 Under 40 Award winner.
And he misses Mattie.
Seamus lives with Deirdre and their three-and-half year old daughter, Áine, in Old Bridge, New Jersey.
Another daughter, Olivia, is away in college.
Áine, says Seamus, misses Mattie every day.
Seamus, a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard, once worked for a security company along with his partner “my bomb-sniffing K9 Mattie” who was close to retirement, but, as far as the Fennessys are concerned, is now being held against her canine will in Texas.
“We’re the only family she has ever known,” Seamus says 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 an almost eight-year-old Black Labrador.
In an earlier effort to have Mattie returned to the family, Deirdre started an online petition. Thousands of signatures were gathered.
But Mattie was not released.
“Our entire family, including extended family, is devastated. Mattie will be too. She’s never had another handler in her entire seven years of life,” Deirdre Fennessy said in an email to the news website, My Central Jersey.
“They (MSA) could retire her,” she said.
According to My Central Jersey, 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.
It’s an important job, he readily acknowledges, and it involves protecting important sites in the New York area.
During the time Seamus worked for MSA, Mattie was his only K-9 partner. In addition, Mattie had never worked with any other handlers, Deirdre Fennessy says.
Seamus and Deirdre have acknowledged that Mattie is legally MSA’s property.
But property can be purchased so the Fennessys have started a fundraiser to buy her back from MSA Security.
“Bring K9 Mattie Home” is the rallying cry for the fundraiser.
MSA, according to Fennessy, is owned by a corporation with nearly 14 billion dollars in assets.
“And we are just a regular working family making ends meet. They could afford just to wait it out until everyone’s emotions have died down and Mattie is forgotten.
“But they are seemingly unaware of the Fighting 69th’s motto, ‘Caomh faoi mholadh, borb faoi mhaslú,’ that is, ‘Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.’
“Mattie is a member of my family, and I do not abandon my family. And every American soldier is aware that you never leave a buddy behind. Mattie was my ‘battle buddy’ for five years.”
According to Fennessy, the fundraiser is not just a private offer to a company “but a collective effort in the public eye that we hope will force to company to acknowledge their past wrongdoing and to correct it by doing the right thing now.
“And the right thing is to send Mattie back home to her family. She is still in Texas and still working, to our knowledge.
“In just the past five days since we started we have raised nearly $5,500 through GoFundMe, which is a quarter of our goal of $22,500, twenty for the cost of Mattie herself, and some extra for transportation, medical, and admin fees.”
The fundraising website is https://www.gofundme.com/f/bring-k9-mattie-home
“Some people have also expressed a preference for donating through PayPal,” said Sergeant Fennessy.
And that site is at https://www.paypal.me/seamusk9