The Wonderful World of Trucking Pets
Pets offer not only companionship, but health benefits too. It is a well known fact that stroking a pet can lower blood pressure and stress hormones. When one is depressed or lonely, a pet can offer unconditional love - it does not matter if you are pretty or not, thin or not, or had a bath today; they will love you.
Through the years, I have seen many varieties of pets on the road with truckers. Dogs and cats of course, but there have been some unique pets too. On the Pennsylvania pike one day at a service plaza, a driver had a tiger in his truck. At Stafford Missouri at the TA, Rolf the wolf made my acquaintance. His owner had to park on the fuel islands so Rolf could see people readily; if he did not, Rolf would chew up the driver’s logbook among other things. Ol’ Cowdog would carry rattlesnakes in his truck; some how he would disable their fangs. He made many of us laugh telling of the time a bad guy broke into his truck to find a huge diamond back rattle snake coiled on the driver’s seat, jumped back, fell down and knocked himself out to be found by Cowdog when he returned to the truck from inside.
A favorite pet story comes from the early 80’s at the old Protho Junction truck stop in North Little Rock Arkansas. A big burley trucker had a parrot in his truck that the driver had taught to wolf whistle. One day, the driver was sitting there doing paperwork with the parrot sitting on the steering wheel, the windows were down. All of a sudden, the parrot let loose with a loud wolf whistle and hopped down off the steering wheel. Another big burley trucker was walking along side of the truck just then and took issue with the wolf whistle thinking the driver had whistled at him; the fight was on. When it was over and the offended driver was shown the parrot, he bought the parrot owner dinner and all was well.
An owner operator friend, Jeff Head, has a bearded dragon lizard that he has raised since she was tiny. Sammy the bearded dragon has grown to about 18 inches and in Jeff’s words “is one very spoiled lizard.” Sammy eats lettuce, fruits, worms and crickets, but unless the worm or cricket is alive, Jeff has to hand feed her; she will pout if he does not. Since she has gotten large, she has the run of the truck for the most part and is cage trained so she does not mess the truck. Jeff has a halter and leash for her and takes her on walks when it is nice, or allows her to ride on his shoulder when out of the truck. Sammy is so popular, she not only charms everyone she meets, but has her own facebook page, as do other pets.
Pets provide endless entertainment and security for the truck, but there are some down sides to having pets, especially if the kind that need to go outside. I have a little poodle/Jack Russell dog that is my riding and home partner, Lillian Russell, Lilly for short. It does not matter what type of neighborhood we are in, how bad the weather is, or how tired I am, when she needs to go out, we have to go out. There are some options, pee pads and diapers for dogs are available, but I do not use those for Lilly.
There are some things to remember if you are going to add a pet to your trucking life.
Â· If you are a company or contract driver for a truck owner, make sure your company or truck owner allows pets. Unfortunately, some irresponsible pet owners have allowed their pets to virtually destroy a truck and not repair it.
Â· Some facilities will not allow pets inside. They may make you tie the pet to a fence outside of the gates or if you have a crate, put the pet in the crate and leave them in the guardhouse.
Â· Always have your pet’s shots up to date and have a record of them with you at all times, or in the case of exotic pets, their vet records. Remember that for truck dogs, they should have heartworm pills year around due to running in areas where mosquitoes are found year around.
Â· If you have a pet that goes outside, be very careful where you allow them to walk; even just stepping in antifreeze can kill them. Often in the back of truck stops there may be medical hazards such as used needles.
Â· If you take your pet outside to do their business, be careful where you allow them to go. On fuel islands, on parking lots, dock areas, picnic areas in rest areas, or where people have to walk are not acceptable places for your pet to go. Take them to the grass away from normal business areas.
Â· Often, the water on fuel islands is not potable water; it is not safe for humans or pets. Make sure the water for your pet is safe for them. I use only bottled water for Lilly.
Â· Never tie your pet outside and leave them unattended. There have been many instances where pets are stolen when left outside alone.
Â· Never allow your pet to run free unless it is completely away from traffic. I do let Lilly run free at some rest areas or warehouse complexes where there are large vacant areas away from the people/traffic areas. There have been many cases of pets running across a parking lot and being hit and killed.
Â· If your pet will be riding in the passenger seat, find a way to make it secure for them in case you have to stop suddenly. I have a high-sided pet bed strapped securely on the passenger seat for Lilly.
Â· Any furry animal will shed; yes, even poodles. Carry extra filters for your heater/ac blower and change them regularly. In some Freightliners, with the blower under the passenger dash, the hair might mix with dust and create condensation pan problems.
Â· Going over high mountains can cause ear pain in animals along with altitude issues with oxygen. Watch your pet for distress. You can ask your vet for suggestions to help if your pet has issues with this.
Â· If your pet gets sick with a reoccurring problem or you run out of medications, you can find an emergency vet in the area you are in or, as I found out, you can have your vet call in a prescription to a Walmart or other large pharmacy chain.
Having a pet on the truck means greater responsibility than having one at home. Keeping them healthy, happy and safe can present some very real challenges at times, but it is worth it for us pet lovers.