How Many Miles Has Your Pet Logged?
While some truckers might figure it’s enough of a pleasure or hassle having a spouse along, some of us also have a pet aboard our trucks as companion animals.
In my case, my wife had a 6-year-old Siamese cat when we married, and Ptolemy quickly took to life on the road with us, guarding the truck as fiercely as any dog would have done. He also thoroughly enjoyed seeing all 48 states from either the dashboard or a small window in the bunk.
For those of you who might want to take your Fido or Tabby along, here are some tips for making everyone on board more comfortable.
Try to take the same amount of food along for both of you. If you have a two weeks’ supply, keep two weeks’ worth of dry or canned food aboard for your pet. When you re-stock your cupboard, you’ll easily remember to get dog or cat food too. That way you won’t have to buy odd brands or a flavor your pet can’t stand on the road. Their stomachs can be as picky as any human’s, and food-caused diarrhea is unpleasant, to say the least.
Always keep a current copy of your pet’s shots and health record from the vet. If you ever need to find a vet on the road, this record will be invaluable for your pet’s treatment. Also keep a current photo of you with your pet on board your truck. You can prove ownership with the photo. And if your dog or cat gets lost, the photo may help the two of you get back together.
If you must leave your tractor running for some reason, be sure your pet can’t accidentally step on the window buttons and either lower the window and fall out or raise the window and hang itself. It sounds far-fetched, but I’ve heard of this happening.
Of course you know your pet shouldn’t be out of the truck cab unless it’s got on a collar or harness, tag and leash— or safely inside a carrier. (With some time and patience, cats can be trained to walk on a leash too. At 13 pounds, Ptolemy had to have a small dog harness, rather than a usual one made for cats, but you can find one that fits comfortably. And no, he wasn’t fat–that really was muscle, bone and fur, which was very evident when we were first training him to go on a leash.)
When walking your pet, watch carefully to be sure it doesn’t eat tossed-out food, berries, fruit or insects that could be poisonous. If you fear your pet has been poisoned, get to a veterinarian immediately.
Use a pooper-scooper. Set an example of how good a neighbor a trucker can be.
Also be a good neighbor by training your pet not to bark, howl, yowl or otherwise disturb the trucker in the next cab.
Get as deep a dish as your pet can use without getting food or water up its nose. If possible, stick the dish to the wall or floor with Vel-cro® so the motion of the truck doesn’t constantly empty it. Ptolemy became resigned to getting his face washed daily by the motion of the truck sloshing the water over his nose when he leaned down to get a drink. He’d shake most of the water off, and then perch on the boot between cab and sleeper to finish his bath.
Brush your pet’s coat daily. You won’t believe how much fur can pile up on board a truck until you realize the hair in your coffee isn’t yours. And keep your pet’s claws short.
Your pet needs a bed, even if it prefers sleeping on yours (especially in cold weather). If you bring its bed in with your bag when you have to stay at a hotel, your pet won’t walk the floor all night or fuss until you can’t sleep either.
If you have a small dog, consider training it to use a disposable litter box. Cats can be trained to use litter which is made of silica and shaped into crystals. This reduces on-board odor significantly. However, avoid the rounded or pearl- shaped litter; your cat can take a bad fall if it’s using the litter box when the truck goes around a corner.
Consider a tattoo for your pet. While your pet won’t be happy about the process, with a tattoo, even if it loses its tag or collar, it has a better chance of getting back to you. Its name and your phone number can be permanently inked on its skin. You could also have a rice-grain-sized ID pellet inserted under the skin, which contains contact information not only for you but could carry the vet’s name and phone number if you prefer.
If Fido or Tabby wants to ride on the dashboard, train him or her to lie down in one certain spot so it’s out of your sight line and your mirrors.
Try to resist picking up strays while on the road; your pet probably doesn’t want to share its home, and it doesn’t need to share fleas or possible diseases.
Above all, enjoy your pet. It’s a hard life out here on the road. Having a companion, whether furry or not, makes life a little easier, even if it’s just having something warm and breathing listening to you compose The Great American Novel as you drive.
Drive Long and Prosper, along with the barks and mews of 4-legged companionship.