For many of us, pets are part of the family. This is especially true of our canine companions. From getting table scraps to playing fetch to sleeping on our beds, many dogs enjoy serious status in our households. This is definitely true for 92-year-old Annabelle Weiss’ dog Joe. Annabelle describes her yellow Labrador companion as “the son she never had.”
But for Annabelle, Joe is more than just a happy addition to her life – he helps to support her. Joe is a trained service animal. Annabelle was paired with him through the organization America’s VetDogs.
In 1944, when she was just 20 years old, Annabelle enlisted in the U.S. Marines. During her two years of service, she worked as a driver and inspected plane engines. After her discharge in 1946, Annabelle went on to work as a nurse. She was later diagnosed with thyroid cancer and other health problems related to her service in the Marines. In 2013, Joe entered her life.
Since that time, the two have been inseparable. While her health issues have taken a toll, Annabelle is able to maintain an independent life with Joe’s help. A typical day for the pair, who reside in the New York suburb of Lindenhurst, includes a drive to the library, lunch at a diner, and a stroll through the park. Joe is trained to bring Annabelle items she drops, open and close doors, and brace her when she needs to get out of a chair or walk up or down stairs.
According to Annabelle, Joe can also get her phone for her if she needs it. She just says, “phone,” and Joe will bring it to her. Annabelle admits that sometimes she doesn’t really need her phone, and she just says it to “keep him sharp.”
And that seems to be what Annabelle is doing – staying sharp with the help of Joe. She lives a rich life thanks to her companion. Without Joe, Annabelle believes that she would have to stay home more. Now, when friends call, she is rarely home to answer the phone.
Cover and In Text Images: Michael Rubenstein / for TODAY