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Community rallies to help soldier find his best friend

October 09, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • The family and friends of U.S. Army Capt. Terry James "T.J." Morris have been trying to find his dog, Athena, since she went missing in mid-September.
Submitted photo

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — While U.S. Army Capt. Terry James “T.J.” Morris is out of the area on a military training mission at Fort Lee, Va., the local community is on a mission of its own to find his beloved dog, Athena.

Morris lives in Fayetteville, N.C., and bought his white Siberian husky six months after returning from a deployment in Iraq from October 2009 to October 2010.

Before his training at Fort Lee, he took Athena to his mother’s home in Chambersburg on Sept. 17.

Morris’ mother, Tammy Wood, said her son had to report to Fort Lee on Sept. 19 and couldn’t have the dog on the base.

So, he brought his 1 1/2-year-old husky to stay with her in Chambersburg.

That night, Wood said it was storming, with thunder and lightning.

“He (Morris) took her outside to go to the bathroom. She never leaves him, but she took off because she was scared by the storm,” Wood said.

The last time the family saw her was Sept. 18 at about 1 a.m.

“She is very friendly, but she’s skittish,” Wood said. “She is shy around strangers.”

Athena has crystal blue eyes, weighs about 60 pounds and has white fur.

Wood said when the dog barks, it sounds like a howl.

The dog was wearing a bluish purple collar with two tags, one that reads “Fort Bragg Animal Clinic” and a snowflake-shaped tag bearing her name, Athena Morris.

The dog has a microchip implanted in her shoulder that can be scanned by a veterinarian for information.

Since then, the entire community has rallied by posting fliers, contacting animal shelters and veterinarians, going door-to-door asking about the dog and starting a Facebook page.

Erica Davis of Lemasters, Pa., didn’t know Morris but was compelled to start a Facebook page — www.facebook.com/BringHomeAthena.

Davis learned about Morris’ plight and wanted to do something to help him find his best friend.

“I used my technical knowledge and made a Facebook page because Facebook is one of the biggest media mediums that we have,” she said. “One person can share it with another person, and that means 500 more people can see it, and on and on and on. You can’t do that running around house to house anymore.”

So far the response to the page has been overwhelming.

“People I don’t know, people that the family don’t know, are out looking for this dog. There are businesses, FedEx and UPS drivers, and township work crews are on the lookout,” she said.

The story really touched something in everyone, she said.

“It did touch my heart because he had to leave with her (Athena) still missing,” Davis said. “He had to leave to go serve our country with his best friend missing. Whether it be human or animal, that’s heart-wrenching.”

So far, Davis said there have not been any confirmed sightings of Athena, but there have been plenty of calls.

There is a $300 reward for the safe return of the dog.

“We want her back,” Davis said. “No questions will be asked.”

Wood said it would mean the world to her son to get Athena back.

“It means everything. It’s emotionally consuming me. It’s hard enough with my son being away from our family, but knowing that he has her (Athena) just makes me feel more comfortable,” Wood said. “I know that he really loves her. It’s all he has away from home. So, it’s really important to me that she gets returned to him.”

Athena is Morris’ family away from home.

“She’s his total love. He brags about this dog to everybody,” Wood said.

Huskies are not easy to train, but she comes at his command, Wood said with pride in her voice.

Even though it’s been several weeks, the family has not given up hope of finding Athena.

“If someone has her, I know they will do the right thing,” Davis said.

Wood said her son is heartbroken.

She said her son said, “Please tell me the second you find her because I can’t take it.”

Those who have information about Athena may log on to the Facebook page or call Wood at 570-867-0610.

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