Exercising Your Copilot

A few years ago, Lady Tumbleweed posted a video on her YouTube channel, which I recently spotted again, about how easy it was for drivers to find ways to exercise at truck stops.  As a retired owner-operator, and now a professional dog trainer, that got me thinking about our canine copilots, who ride (and sit) for the same number of miles each day that we do. Are we meeting their exercise needs?


Since truckers often find themselves at unfamiliar locations that usually border roads and highways, exercise for their dogs is dangerous if not handled properly. A dog that gets loose and wanders is unable to easily find its way home, may be picked up as a stray (and the trucker may be forced to move on before locating the dog, or lose the job that feeds his/her family) or worse, the dog could enter a road/highway and be killed by a vehicle. Thus, in my opinion, all truckers’ dogs should be microchipped, and the owner’s info must kept updated in the chip company’s database. That way, animal control personnel, shelters, or veterinarians can get in touch, should the dog come to their facilities and be scanned.

Before starting an exercise regimen on the road, drivers need to do some preparation. Dogs  must wear sturdy equipment they can’t wriggle out of, to which is affixed their identification tag and license. The best collar, in my opinion, for a truck dog, is a plain cloth martingale, or “limited slip” collar with the driver’s cell phone number embroidered on it. Martingales go on over the dog’s head, and are then adjusted for fit, so that they don’t choke the dog, but do prevent the dog from slipping out of the collar if he pulls backward.

In addition, because exercising is going to require that the dog be on a long leash, a non-chafing, no pull escape-proof harness is also recommended. To that, the training lead can then be attached. Training leads come in longer lengths than the one linked, or several can be tied together using a non-slip knot.

Now that the dog is outfitted, how do we exercise? One of the best ways is to just use the dog’s regular food (so no extra calories) to teach him to play a “find it” game. You can also use games to help build attention, too, so that your dog learns to want to stay with you, instead of running  off, in the event that you ever accidentally drop the leash. Another exercise option, for dogs that like it, are fetch games with balls or discs, or even flirt poles.

For dogs whose environment is limited (a truck cab is a very small space, even if you love the person you’re riding with), mental stimulation is quite important, too. Puzzle feeders and toys are much better than plain old boring bowls! Only caveat – dogs need human supervision whenever they are playing with toys or puzzles. Training is also good for mental exercise, and has the added benefit of keeping your copilot safer, so you can enjoy many more miles together!

The Gender Gap

I’m pretty old. I lived through being at left home when the boys went off to little league, and having to take cooking class when I was more interested in building things, just because I was female.

I lived through a time when a wife couldn’t get a credit card without her husband’s signature, and through a time when classified ads were labeled “male” or “female” instead of “professional” or “medical” or what have you. On the bright side, I also remember when employers fully paid for your health insurance and when you went to the doctor, you had no balance left to pay after your visit.

I’m the daughter of a conservative mother and a very politically liberal dad. A critical thinker, principled to a fault, he managed to convince me, against a lot of stacked odds, that I could be anything I wanted to be. I lost a lot, and I gained a lot in that struggle, but when I found myself divorced in my early thirties, I didn’t fold, I literally chased one of my dreams down the highway. I spent more than a million miles in this male dominated profession and did my job as well as anyone. When people taunted me, I still called them “hand” and rolled on down the road alongside them, keeping up the unspoken “old school” rules of how you do your job. I chatted on the CB, helping the same drivers who might have taunted me the day before to stay awake and make those last few miles to a safe haven with the shiny side still up. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of a free meal, a roadside repair, and a ride to the nearest truck stop.

It’s a personal moment of joy for me every time a new woman driver says that she’s gotten her CDL and can now look forward to being able to be independent and feed her family. I know what it’s like to confront gender inequality and would love to see a woman in the White House before I die. But, I will not, and cannot, support voting for (or against) someone based solely upon their gender, or their race, or religion, for that matter. The real goal of equality is to reach a point where there’s no discrimination, and therefore no reason to either hire, or deny hiring, elect, or not elect, someone on that basis. We should vote based upon the person whose positions most closely match ours, and forget the labels others attach to them.

We need to get to a point where, for all Americans, your gender, age, race, or religion matters much less than your integrity, positions on important issues, or ability to do your job. I’m no Pollyanna, and we may not be there yet, but let’s push forward, and realize what “the better angels of our nature” make possible. No racism, no religious intolerance, no ageism, no gender inequality.