It can get lonely for long haul truck drivers but many have found companionship with dogs, cats, birds, ferrets and other pets who come along for the ride.
Having a pet on board reminds drivers to stop and stretch their legs regularly – and when they do, pets also increase drivers’ social interactions with others. Pets have been shown to help improve mental health and reduce stress. Petting or cuddling a dog or a cat has been found to decrease levels of cortisol—our stress hormone. Bonding with our pets also releases oxytocin and other so-called “happy” hormones in both humans and our pets.
Rebecca Washington, a long-distance trucker, is a firm believer in the benefits of having pets on the road. She told The New York Times that she is sometimes away from home for months on end but depends on her “rig dogs” (Ziggy, Polly, Junior and Tucker) for companionship. “People call me the traveling zoo,” she said. “We’re away from our families a lot of the time. Animals are good companions and walking the dogs at truck stops is a good way to lose weight and stay healthy. I take them out two at a time. It’s a routine.”
While dogs and cats are the most common pets for truck drivers, there are plenty of others. Sarah Giles, of Breckenridge, Texas, told the NYT that she carries a pair of dogs and Bonnie, a large green-cheeked conure parakeet. “They’re about a foot long, as smart as a 4-year-old and very affectionate,” Giles said. “Bonnie wants to be on me all the time, insists on everything her way, and doesn’t like strangers near the truck.”
Another unusual pet? A ferret! Chris Hahn described his furry co-pilot to Trucking Life as “a bundle of joy” — at least while it is asleep. Hahn says the idea of having a ferret as a driving companion came from a chance encounter at a Texas truck stop, where Hahn noticed a driver walking out of the shower area with a ferret sitting on his shoulder. “I’d been driving solo with no pets for several years, and I’m like, ‘You know, I’m bored. I’m lonely,’” Hahn said.
He spent the next four months researching ferrets and how to care for one as a pet, then “ferret-proofed” his rig to ensure the safety of his ferret, Four Sox, and the equipment.; Hahn has created a network of tubes that allows the ferret to roam the truck from top to bottom. There’s also a plastic tub filled with toys to keep Four Sox entertained.
Kelly and Robyn Brunson of Tooele, Utah, drive the 2013 Peterbilt 389 they own for Godfrey Trucking, and told the NYT they share their space with Truffles, an American mini pig.
“We chose a pig for the truck because they are clean and do not smell,” Ms. Brunson said. “The staff and drivers have all come to love Truffles. She gets up every morning at 8 a.m. for her breakfast of piggy pellets and fruit and loves to burrow in the pillows and blankets in the sleeper. She goes wherever we go, including to 48 states.”
Lindsay Hamrick, director of shelter outreach and engagement at the Humane Society of the United States, says truck drivers can be ideal pet owners.
“For anyone wanting to adopt, there’s a match for that person,” she said. “I can think of no better life for a dog who likes to ride in a vehicle than to be with their owner 24/7.” The Humane Society operates an Adopters Welcome site to help change adoption policies which would make adopting from animal shelters more trucker friendly.