During his 26 years of trucking, Matthew Cribbs, an over-the-road truck driver for Crete Carrier Corp., Shaffer Trucking and Hunt Transportation, has met truckers from all walks of life. He has also met truckers with all kinds of pets, including cats, birds and a monkey. For Cribbs, however, the ideal travel companion is a Boston terrier.
“I don’t know what it is about the Boston breed,” he said. “I just fell in love with them.”
His dog, Bella, is an 11-month-old Boston terrier that weighs about 18 pounds. The pup has black, white and brindle markings. Plentiful energy and low-maintenance health needs are hallmarks of the breed, Cribbs said.
“She likes to play. She likes to romp,” he added. “She is just a ball of energy.”
Cribbs works to maintain a consistent diet for Bella, even purchasing a specific brand of bottled water for her, and he keeps an eye on her at truck stops to ensure she doesn’t ingest anything that could harm her.
“She’ll pick up anything and try to eat it. A lot of guys throw their chicken bones on the ground and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s really bad at truck stops. There might be 20 trash cans throughout the property, and people just chuck their trash out — right out of the window onto the ground — and not a care in the world.”
He also modified the passenger seat of his 2018 Freightliner Cascadia P4 by making a booster seat so Bella can lounge by his side while he’s driving. When he stops for fuel, she often hops onto the dashboard to sunbathe.
“If you have stock in window cleaner and paper towel companies, you’re in business with me because there’s tongue marks and slobber marks and stuff all over the windows,” he said. “Buddy, my other dog, was the same way. He’d sneeze all over the windows and put his little ‘nose art’ all over the windows all the time.”
Cribbs rode with Buddy, a Boston terrier he rescued from a shelter in Lakeland, Florida, for eight years before the dog’s death.
“I swore I wasn’t going to get another dog after Buddy passed, and then I just happened to be perusing Craigslist, and I saw Cooper. I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to have him just because of his face,’” Cribbs said, adding that he was on the road when his wife rescued Cooper from a Daytona Beach shelter. “Everybody fell in love with him, so my wife and the boys confiscated him before I even got him.”
Cooper, who stays at home with the family, is now almost 3 years old and weighs 25 pounds. After two years, Cribbs decided he wanted dog to travel with, so he picked up Bella from a breeder in Springfield, Missouri. After spending some time at his home in DeLand, Florida, while she got her puppy shots, Bella joined Cribbs in his truck — and she has been by his side ever since.
“I missed the companionship of having a dog,” he said, adding that he also wanted a dog to ensure he was active while on the road. “This kind of breed, they have a lot of energy. They need to get out and play, so it helps me get out and exercise and helps me live a healthier lifestyle.”
Cribbs’ company’s pet policy requires drivers to pay a deposit and sacrifice a half-cent of their pay, he said, adding that the funds are used to furnish the brick-and-mortar terminals with pet facilities, such as kennels and dog-waste areas.
“Bella’s small enough that if I need to give her a bath, I can take her into our laundry room that we have [at a terminal], and I can actually give her a bath in the utility sink.”
The duo typically spends three or four weeks at a time hauling refrigerated goods across the continental U.S. before returning home for a week at a time. He said Bella is always eager to see Cooper, and he may breed the two dogs when Bella is older.
Although Bella is often separated from Cooper, the pups make the most of the time they spend together, romping and playing.
“When I’m at home, that’s all they do practically 20 hours a day — just running through the house,” Cribbs said. “Then they come outside and they run around the entire property, chasing each other.”
Sarah DeClerk is a multiskilled journalist who specializes in features writing. She has written articles for The Trucker, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas Flag and Banner’s Brave magazine and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Forum. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mass communication from UA-Little Rock in 2013. She has been a board member of the Arkansas Society of Professional Journalists since 2017 and currently serves as chapter president. Her interests include hiking, traveling and the arts.