Purple-haired truck driver Heather Krebs, who loves traveling with a hairless Sphynx cat as a companion, might not fit the image of a “typical” trucker — but Krebs wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, Krebs refused to learn how to train to be a truck driver and obtain her CDL if her cat, Pebbles (better known as “Squish”), wasn’t on board.
“If I couldn’t bring her, I wouldn’t have done it,” Krebs said. “I wouldn’t have even wanted to go into trucking at all.”
Krebs said she has always been an “animal person.” In fact, one could say she was bred to be an animal lover, working as a veterinary medicine technician for 16 years. During her time as a vet tech, she acquired five cats, including Pebbles.
“It’s not horribly unheard of in the veterinary industry,” she said.
Five Sphynx cats and counting may be abnormal for a typical household, although Krebs believes it may be the perfect fit for her personality.
“I am not a cat person,” she said. “I’m a dog person. However, there is one breed of cat that I like, and that is the Sphynx, or the hairless cat. Their vocals are more friendly, and they’re more social.”
In her former career as a vet tech, Krebs says, she frequently got to wrangle with dogs. To her, Sphynx cats are much like dogs in their behaviors.
Plus, she explained, she fell in love with the Sphynx breed from the moment she saw one on television as a youngster.
“(I thought then) if I ever owned a cat, it’s going to be that kind of cat,” Krebs said. She wound up owning five. In fact, she said, the companionship of five Sphynx cats helped her face her own battles with depression and divorce.
While Krebs enjoyed working as a vet tech, she said it took a toll on her physically, particularly her hands. This eventually led to not one, but two surgeries on one of her hands. She loved her career, but she loved her health, too.
“I’m 50 years old,” she said. “I just thought, ‘How many more surgeries can I do? How long do I want to be wrestling 100-pound dogs on the floor?’”
As Krebs recovered from a hand surgery, her truck-driving boyfriend, Kelly Jones, took her along on a three-week run in his truck.
“I was just a passenger, and I just kind of fell in love with it,” she said. “As a kid, I definitely thought about (driving a big truck), but I was very intimidated. Coming out on the road with Kelly really gave me an insight to the lifestyle. Sometimes, you’re driving at 2 a.m. Sometimes, you’re driving at 2 p.m. You’re sleeping odd hours, and it appeals to me.”
With her children growing up and graduating from college, Krebs said she figured it was the perfect time to go out over the road and “give this a go.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing things I haven’t seen,” she said. A born and raised Californian, she hasn’t explored much of the U.S. She’s lived in San Diego her entire life, and says she’s “spoiled” to the ability to drive to the beach and the mountains in the very same day.
“I haven’t seen any other places — let alone lived in other places — but I’m kind of excited to see what this means and to find something I like better than San Diego, which will be hard to do,” she said.
When Krebs started her CDL training journey, Jones asked if she was open to the idea of moving.
“I definitely have an interest. I’m not tied to California, and I could definitely be somewhere else,” she said. “(California is) all I’ve ever known, but the adventure of living somewhere else is definitely interesting.”
Krebs said she’s excited about downsizing her life and living low-cost, with the option of buying a house and vacationing when she wants.
“It’s just being able to live and have so much control of what you do,” she said. “Currently, I mean, yes, your dispatch does loads but you’re kind of your own boss. You travel the nation and take the home time that you want. That appeals to me. I’m excited to work for myself but still have the protection of working as a company driver.”
Krebs is just finishing up her training and is testing with Knight Transportation to get her own truck. Of course, she made sure Knight would allow her to take a cat on the road with her. With the company “cat checked” and her training nearly complete, Krebs said she’s ready to go.
There was one dilemma, however: Krebs said she had to choose which one of her five cats to bring with her on the journey. Two, Sprite and Raisin, are sisters, and she didn’t want to break them apart. Then there were Smudge, and Tiny, who could be a little too energetic. With everything considered, she said Pebbles won by a landslide, having the best temperament and potential to best handle life on the road.
That doesn’t mean the other cats are gone forever. Krebs enlisted friends to care for them while she’s away, and she loves receiving pictures and videos of her fur-free forever friends.
Krebs said she is happy with her choice of companion. Pebbles loves the road, and Krebs loves having the cat along for the ride.
“She just sits in the passenger seat, and she’s a great co-pilot,” Krebs said. “Even though she’s not a road dog, which most people have, she’s done amazing, and I’m very, very lucky to have her. I had no idea what it would look like to bring her on a truck, and she just has free rein. When we’re moving, most of the time she’s sleeping. She’s a food hound, and if she hears any kind of wrapper, or we open the cooler at all, she’s out.”
It helps that Pebbles, a “dwelf,” or dwarf elf cat, only weighs about 4 pounds. Krebs describes Pebbles as built like a dachshund, with a long body and short legs. Pebbles earned her nickname, “Squish,” because of her dwarfish, dachshund-type stature.
Between Pebbles the hairless cat and Krebs’ purple hair, the appearance of the group is a conversation starter for most. When Jones took her and Pebbles out on the road, Krebs said, the three were at one point stuck in a terminal for three days. Every person that walked by wanted to know about her unique cat, she continued.
“It prompted a lot of conversations, and she was kind of this little celebrity of the terminal for three days,” Krebs laughed. “She wears her little bells anywhere she is. Everybody just loves her; she’s super, super friendly. Sphynx cats are not like typical cats. They are not aloof, they love to be loved and they’re just really social. They don’t go off in the corner and only come out when they want to. It’s been my experience that they’re just lovers, and they want to be wherever you are.”
Krebs strives to do the same, all while loving her own life and freedom. In a way, she’s always been a free spirit, especially after a bout of breast cancer 19 years ago.
“For a little while, I did sort of roam around,” she said of her life after becoming a cancer survivor. “When I got divorced, I said, ‘You know what? I get to do whatever I want. I don’t have anybody.’ The color of the year at that time was this dark wine, purple-red color. I went to my hairdresser and I said, ‘That’s what I want.’”
That purple hair is Krebs’ tribute to her survival. She has persevered through all the challenges life has handed her, and believes she’s found the life she was meant for. During a bout with depression, Krebs said, she found a partner in Pebbles. Through her divorce, she found Jones, a man she describes as her “home,” along with a whole other life waiting to be explored on the road.
Hannah Butler is a lover of interesting people, places, photos and the written word. Butler is a former community newspaper reporter and editor for Arkansas Tech University’s student newspaper. Butler is currently finishing up her undergraduate print journalism degree and hopes to pursue higher education. Her work has been featured in at least nine different publications.