Mixing 4 legs with 18 wheels

Companionship, protection and even exercise while walking the dog make ride-along pets worth the effort for many long-haul truckers. Pets can also bring a welcome reminder of home, as trucker’s girlfriend Jennifer Hodge discovered when she climbed aboard the truck for three months with her rottweiler, Sage, in tow. The big dog immediately took to life on the road, even sharing the sleeper bunk at night. “Other truckers were always wanting to pet her,” Hodge says. “From there it led to stories of their pets, their kids and families. It was a way for them to get their minds off the road and unwind.”

Not every animal is as suited to the road as Sage, and not every trucker has the time and patience to care for an onboard pet. Driver’s wife Lydia Penner says her husband, Roger, found their 45-pound German shepherd too much to handle. They also learned company policies allowing ride-along pets can change suddenly. After they saved $1,000 for the required cleaning and damage deposit, his company canceled its policy without warning. “Supposedly a driver had been caught with three rottweilers in his truck,” Penner says.

Whether in a company vehicle or your own truck, pets make it harder to maintain sleeper hygiene. Hodge had to vacuum daily for dog hair. Flea infestations can be a worse problem, best prevented with monthly applications of anti-flea treatment on the pet’s neck. Using washable rugs or towels for a sleeping area can reduce dog smell. Carpet cleaner and deodorizer also help.

These days, Hodge and her dog are back at home, sidelined by her boyfriend’s move from owner-operator to regional company driver. Both have happy memories from the road. Sage still runs to the front door at the word “truck” and goes on alert at the sound of a Jake brake. Hodge’s trucker is now home every few days but is allowed no riders – “four legs or two,” she says.


BE PREPARED

Maintaining your pet’s health and security on the road requires careful planning:

  • Before leaving, make sure all shots are up to date.
  • Carry any regular medication, such as heartworm pills and copies of rabies certificates.
  • Make sure your pet wears a collar with ID tag.
  • Take a small pet first aid kit. Include pediatric Benedryl for allergic reactions; check with your vet for proper dosage, as well as a safe antibiotic for emergency use.
  • Use a good quality dry pet food and provide clean water frequently.
  • Strictly limit table scraps to avoid stomach upsets.
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