It’s no secret: Truckers can get lonely on long hauls. But  an amazing number of them, especially over-the-road (OTR) truckers, have  found a handy solution to the loneliness problem: Pets.

In  fact, about 40 percent of truckers take pets—mostly dogs and cats—on  the road with them. These furry friends offer not just fun and  companionship. Pets also help truckers’ physical and mental health, and  even soften the public image of truck drivers.

While having pets on board requires some planning—detailed below—it’s well worth the effort, truckers with pets claim.

Benefits Of Driving With Pets

Consider  Stephanie Klang, who always loved it when she pulled her big Kenworth  T680 into small towns for deliveries. She would roll the windows down  first thing—not for air, but for Fred, “who hung out the window like a  dog,” she says.

He was, in fact, a cat, which is why people instantly smiled when they saw him peering at them.

“That’s one of the things pets do. They make us truckers more human to the public,” says Stephanie, who for decades drove for CFI Trucking with two ride-along cats.

The  recently retired Stephanie enjoyed lots of benefits by having Fred,  along with his girlfriend, Noodles, riding with her in the rig. Fred and  Noodles were company. Buddies. Cuddles. Entertainment. Like children,  they needed, and offered, love and attention. They also required some  cat condo accommodations in the truck, which Stephanie provided, as any  good mom would.

“I had a cat bed on the passenger seat,  a towel on the dash,” she says. “Sometimes they slept on my lap. One of  my trucks had a really nice table setup, and I had a huge bowl of water  and dry food there all day, and canned food at night.”

What Animals Can Truckers Take With Them?

Stephanie  is one of thousands of truckers with pets—part of that 40 percent of  pet-friendly rigs out there on the road. Most rig pets are dogs; second  most popular are cats. But by no means does the list stop there. Other  truckers’ pets are featured in many trucker publications, such as  Truckers News and Overdrive Magazine, not to mention websites such as alltrucking.com and freightrover.com.

Consider  the trucker Joe Mansheim of Minnesota, who drives with Frank, his pet  duck. Joe has been riding with Frank, a Drake Mallard, since Frank was a  duckling. Joe has pronounced his fine-feathered buddy quite personable.  In fact, Joe and Frank watch baseball together.

Then  there’s owner-operator Larry Leckrone, who has ridden some 20 years with  his potty-trained parrot, Mugsy, who is 21 and has a 300-word  vocabulary. Leckrone told Overdrive, “first thing I hear in the morning  is ‘Daddy, I love you’—and then ‘Big potty!’”

Apparently,  Mugsy’s sharp beak and strong bite make him “a guard dog.” When someone  once tried to rob Larry, the robber “left his ring finger in the cab.  They found him by following the blood.”

The tales, and  tails, go on and on. Truckers have been known to ride with snakes,  iguanas, fish, and ferrets. Stephanie, in fact, met a trucker with a  ferret, Samantha. “Her owner stopped every two weeks to have the ferret  professionally groomed.”

All of this is entertaining,  but equally important is that research shows having pets on the road  provides truckers with significant benefits.

Pets Improve Truckers’ Health

One  clinical psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing, an expert on pet/human  bonds, was quoted in a recent publication about studies that show  “levels of the ‘feel-good’ brain hormone oxytocin spiked when people  just petted a dog,” and that pets “served as a sort of multiplier for  their happiness. Pets can help negate bad moods and loneliness.”

Studies  done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National  Institutes of Health indicate that truckers who ride with pets have  decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, all of  which can reduce heart attack risk.

Many truckers also get more exercise on the road, since dogs must be walked regularly.

None  of this surprises Bojan Sinanovic and his wife, Iris Perederiy, who  live in Michigan. The couple owns a Jack Russell terrier named Milo.  About three years ago, Bojan, who drives for a company in Grand Rapids,  Michigan, took Milo on the road with him when Iris was visiting family  overseas.

“We spent a whole month in the truck  together,” Bojan says of his adventure with Milo in his 2000 Volvo  truck. Having the dog in the truck was fun, Bojan says. “In some ways,  it’s better than having another person with you. Dogs are great  companions. They don’t take up too much of your space, don’t bother you  with boring conversations, and they adjust fairly quickly.”

Bojan  and Iris say they’ve seen lots of truckers with dogs—boxers, pit bulls,  German Shepherds, bulldogs. Most had had them in the truck since the  dogs were puppies, too. Truth be told, some of these pets are pretty  spoiled.

Bojan says it’s typical to see truckers lift  their dogs into the rig, which can be difficult if the dogs are hefty.  “Once,” he recalls, “we saw a trucker sitting on a curb at a truck stop,  sharing his burger with his dog, one bite at a time.”

Trucks With Pets Get Preference

Bojan  adds, every now and then, dogs can give truckers advantages. In  California, for instance, the law forbids letting trucks idle (unless it  meets various, new environmental standards, which is difficult for many  truckers to keep up with). But if there are pets in the cab, it’s  considered inhumane to have the truck off.

Even better, Bojan adds, “sometimes trucks with dogs are loaded or unloaded more quickly.”

How To Adapt Your Rig For Pets

If  you’re considering bringing a furry—or feathered—friend aboard, you  should do a little planning. For instance, what breeds are best for life  on the road? How do you deck out your truck for these road co-warriors?

Here are some recommendations for adding that pet to your rig.

Check Trucking Companies’ Pet Policies

First,  find out if the company you drive for allows pets on board. Many do  not. Those that do often have some kind of pet policy, which is worth  checking out before you commit to a pet. For instance, some pet-friendly  companies require significant deposits; some refund some or all of  these deposits, others do not.

Best Dog Breeds For Truck Travel

Truckers  have all kinds of dogs, including very large breeds. But truckers  report that some breeds adjust better to the overall confinement of life  on the road. They include: Border collies, French bulldogs, pit bulls,  Yorkies, and chihuahuas. It also is recommended not to get a dog that  will grow very large; related to that: Don’t get a puppy. Obviously, as  Bojan reported, many truckers ignore this advice.

Pet-Proof Your Truck

Alltrucking.com and freightrover.com offer suggestions on pet-proofing your truck:

  • Block  access to the cab’s driver area, especially the pedals. This keeps Fido  from causing an accident by romping onto your brakes.
  • Find safe, tightly sealed storage for trash, food, medicine, and other items you don’t want Fido to eat.
  • Have a designated pet space that allows your pet some stretch-out room between stops.
  • Always have lots of fresh water available. Keep it out at all times—in a spill proof bowl, so your pet can drink anytime.

On-Board Must-Haves For Your Pet

Along  with the above pet-proofing accommodations, here are some other  suggested steps published online that can ensure your pet’s comfort and  safety:

  • Sudden stops could send your  pet into the air—not to mention the windshield—at top speed. You can use  a harness that attaches to a seat belt, or a closed-off kennel to guard  against this.
  • Make sure your pet  has a soft, warm place to sleep. Covering its cage with a blanket helps  keep the pet warm. Be sure to leave room at the bottom for air flow.
  • Cats can get restless on long hauls. It helps to have a scratching board and a few cat toys to keep them occupied.
  • Make sure to keep a large water jug with a dispenser to be sure you and your pet don’t run out.
  • Consider seat covers.
  • Always keep waste bags in your truck—and use them. It’s your responsibility to clean up after your animals.
  • Consider getting a dog ramp to help small, and elderly, dogs’ easy access in and out of the truck.
  • Keep extra cab filters. Pets can smell.
  • Carry a small, 12-volt vacuum for quick and easy clean-up.
  • Use a retractable leash; never let your dog run freely at truck stops or rest areas.
  • Carry a spare key in your pocket. Pets can hit door locks while you’re outside of the truck.
  • Make sure you have lots of Windex.
  • Make sure your dog has tags.
  • Be prepared to make lots of stops.
  • Check  out dog booties. They protect dogs’ feet from the likes of hot pavement  in Arizona in July, and frigid snow and ice in Minnesota in January.
  • Do not let your dogs out at the gas pumps. This exposes them to walking in diesel fuel and oil and other nasty elements.

How To Keep Your Truck Pet Healthy

Common  illnesses traveling pets might have are gastrointestinal conditions  such as vomiting and diarrhea, colitis, pancreatitis, gastric dilatation  and bloating, and hemorrhagic enteritis. Truckers running with pets  should have a pet first-aid kit containing Benadryl, Pepto-Bismol,  antibiotic ointment, prescriptions, and bandages such as NuSkin.

You also should have your pets’ vaccination record and health records, and the veterinarians’ contact information.

Symptoms  indicating a pet may be ill include: reduced appetite; reluctance to go  out at rest stops; reduced alertness and responsiveness; and difficult  elimination of urine or feces.

If emergency veterinary  services are needed on the road, check with a truck stop manager for the  nearest veterinarian, or search online for the closest 24-hour vet.

You also might consider getting pet insurance, which is offered by numerous companies.

So  there you have it: Truckers, you can kiss loneliness goodbye—and feel  better and lighter—with the road pet of your choice. Start prepping that  cabin today!

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