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.
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!