STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Annmarie Snow Matera was matched with her beloved service dog, Domino, after Superstorm Sandy and enjoyed almost nine years of love and companionship. The weekend of March 6, she bid farewell to Domino, well-loved by countless Staten Islanders, as he crossed over Rainbow Bridge.
Raised by David Benjamin and Regina Benjamin, Domino and Matera matched through the Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), whose program trainers and staff stayed with Matera in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy to ensure a smooth transition.
“I knew short after I brought Domino home that he was a gift I needed to share,” said Matera. “We attended many CCI events and fundraisers. He held the donation bucket like no other, especially at the NYC Auto Show. He always had a way of drawing people in wanting to know more.”
With Domino by her side, Matera started a reading program on Staten Island, often giving demonstrations about service dogs to the young students.
“There wasn’t a neighborhood we walked in where you wouldn’t hear a kid yelling Domino,” said Matera. “He would light up any room we entered, especially when I went to physical therapy.”
LUV ON A LEASH PROGRAM AT PRIDE CENTER OF STATEN ISLAND
Domino was a volunteer for the Luv on a Leash Therapy Dogs, a project of the Pride Center of Staten Island, which places trained, registered therapy dog teams in meaningful programs throughout the Staten Island community.
All the therapy dogs, including Domino, provide comfort and caring in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, extended care and residential facilities, schools and agencies where therapy dogs can be of benefit.
Luv on a Leash Therapy Dogs is funded through the generosity of The Bruce Geary Foundation and is a proponent of the power of the human/animal bond to significantly enhance people’s lives. The human-animal connection shows the benefits are not just emotional, but can also boost infant immunity to infections, help with mental health disorders by affecting brain chemistry, and lower blood pressure.
Specifically, Domino gave comfort and assistance for five years to patients at Staten Island University Hospital, bringing smiles to rehab and cancer patients. “The kids would say his leash had super powers,” said Matera. “Once the word got out there wasn’t a department we didn’t visit. Most people didn’t know my name but they sure knew Domino’s.”
Domino was also an avid volunteer at the Staten Island Family Justice Center and Richmond County DA’s Office. “Domino gave victims the courage to tell their story and comforted them during the process and he was a favorite at the courthouse,” said Matera.
“Our great work as Team Domino caught the attention of many news outlets. We were honored to except many awards, especially the community service award,” she added.
RACHAEL RAY AND DR. OZ APPEARENCES
In between the back-to-back community service events, Domino enjoyed CCI doggy play dates. “Always being the oldest, Domino gave the other pups a run for their money,” said Matera.
Domino quickly attracted the attention of talk shows, too. “We went to many talk shows,” added Matera. “Rachael Ray was his favorite. She called herself Auntie Rachel every time she came off stage to give Domino a special treat.”
He got to wear his ‘how you doin” bandana for Wendy Williams and made sure Dr. Oz took notice. “We attended outdoor concerts and countless Atlantic City trips, where sometimes a rub on his head would win him some extra treats.”
“Domino and I had an amazing journey,” said Matera. “Who would’ve thought it would’ve started during a natural disaster ended during a pandemic. He filled his purpose and we filled ours above and beyond. Domino always looked so good with the shiniest coat no one ever knew his real age.
“I’m so glad he was able to spend his 10th birthday at his favorite place, Domino Park. I pray that God helps me get through this, along with my CCI family. I take comfort Domino was greeted by many when he crossed, especially his brother, Dodger, who passed a few days ago. He touched so many lives he will always be my “Dominoeffect.”