Trucking Dogs: Fueling Truckers Spirits One Mile at a Time

The ultimate road companions

Elizabeth Eve

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“Sierra” Photo by Shannon Tormey

I spoke with Vance while he was on the freeway headed to Michigan. We began the call in Tennessee, and I knew he crossed the state line when I heard him announce to Hailey, “We’re in Kentucky, girl!”

Trucking is hard: 14-hour days hard. Working weekends hard. Tight turns hard. Merging in an 80-foot vehicle hard. Fully loaded at 80,000 pounds trucks can’t break as quickly as cars hard.

It can also be lonely and isolating — long hours with little human contact, high stress to make deliveries on time, and stretches of time without seeing family.

Truckers shower, use the bathroom, launder clothes, and eat at truck stops — with limited food choices because restaurants can’t accommodate 18-wheelers unless they are there to make a delivery.

As a result of this lifestyle, they often lack exercise, maintain a poor diet, and have erratic sleep schedules. According to the CDC, they have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity compared to the general population. There have been conflicting results among studies, but they indicate a reduced lifespan of anywhere from 8–16 years shorter than the average American. Yup, you heard that right.

OK, enough of the morbidity of what I would call a public health crisis. What might improve health and reduce stress? The thing that makes everything in life better: DOGS.

Truckers are amazing dog owners — what could be better than 24/7 companionship for a dog? Dogs provide structure for their owners. They force them to get exercise and fresh air, and their mere presence can make them feel less isolated. They’re like a two-for-one with the ability to improve physical and emotional health. It is estimated that 40% of truckers ride with a dog.

Vance adopted Hailey, a lab mix, as a puppy. She is now eight and has been on the road her entire life. Vance speaks openly about his struggles with anxiety, PTSD, and diabetes and how he researched and self-trained her to be his service dog. Vance tells me how dogs have a way of sensing things we can’t — and he’s right.

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Elizabeth Eve

Forever a work in progress. Writing about pets, body image, self, and other reflections. Always written with vulnerability and authenticity.