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K9-Loving Military Family Fights For Return Of Bomb-Sniffing ‘Mattie Cakes’

Mattie Photo Credit: COURTESY: Deirdre Fennessey
This 4-year-old photo of Mattie came up in Deirdre's Fennessy's Facebook memories on Friday. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Deirdre Fennessey

“The emptiness in our home is palpable,” the wife of a Central Jersey Army National Guardsman who had his bomb-sniffing dog taken back by his employer said Friday.

“We all miss her,” Deirdre Igoe-Fennessy said.

Her husband, Seamus, had been handling and training Mattie the past five years. After the 20-year Guardsman was summoned for long-term active duty in nearby New York, MSA Security took her back.

It began as a local story but has begun picking up steam via an online petition and Facebook page .

The nearly 7-year-old black Lab has only known the Middlesex County (Old Bridge) couple and their young daughter, Áine. MSA’s canines live with their handlers, similar to those used by public police agencies.

On its website, MSA says it follows a “one dog, one handler” policy without moving the canines around – which, it says, “ensures optimum performance, and keeps our dogs happy, healthy and effective.”

Igoe-Fennessy said Mattie has stayed with her whenever her husband -- a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard and a combat veteran who formerly served in Afghanistan -- was sent to months-long training.

“There was always something that could be worked out,” she told News12. “It was always presented that way -- not that we're ripping your dog away."

Igoe-Fennessy said her husband specifically told MSA that he “would be local and still able to keep up with Mattie’s training” in his new National Guard assignment.

“Since MSA has previously allowed handlers to keep their dogs in similar circumstances we had no reason to believe this would be different,” she said.

“Except it was.

“At the 11th hour only 2 days before my husband went on orders we were abruptly informed that Mattie would need to be returned and someone 'would pick her up in the morning.'”

"It was just so hard [Wednesday] when they were leaving,” she told News12, “just not knowing when or if I’ll ever see Mattie again -- if any of us will ever see her again.”

At the same time, she said, “Mattie, our lovable goofball, who won’t understand any of this but will wonder what she did wrong to end up in a kennel torn from her family and everything she knows.”

Seamus Fennessy wants to stay with MSA.

Mattie, meanwhile, will continue working and could retire in a year, his wife said MSA officials told them.

So what’s the problem, she wants to know.

"They could retire her [now]," Igoe-Fennessy said.

"On paper, MSA owns Mattie, but this isn't about ownership,” she said. “This is about doing the right thing and matters of the heart."

MSA responded in a statement: “MSA Security's explosive detection canine services are a matter of public and private safety. Our policies and procedures regarding our canines and handlers are subject to confidentiality and may not be discussed by MSA."

Igoe-Fennessy started a change.org petition in an effort to get MSA to reconsider: Please save K9 Mattie from being torn away from her military family .

ALSO SEE: Keep K9 Mattie with her Veteran Human

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