One thing about Diana Stolsworth is clear: If you tell her she can’t do something, it’s at your own risk. When asked what got her behind the wheel five years ago, the sassy Texan gives out a self-satisfied chuckle.
“Honestly? It’s because my ex-husband told me that I would never own a pickup,” she said. “Our divorce was finalized on Dec. 5. Dec. 6 I bought me a Silverado, and that following February I went to truck-driving school with Stevens Transport.”
The chuckle grows until she cuts loose with a hearty laugh.
“You tell me I can’t do something,” she said. “I’m going to one-up it!”
The same goes for her choice of cabmates.
Stolsworth has always driven with dogs, the first two being a pair of Chihuahuas named Bella and Toby. No one was more surprised than Stolsworth, dog lover though she was, when she found herself in possession of not just one, but two of the feisty little pups.
“I hated Chihuahuas. Hated them little ankle biters,” she said. “Then somebody bought Bella for me as a gift, and I’m one of those I have the kindness in my heart when it comes to animals. I couldn’t take her and then get rid of her just because she’s the type of dog I don’t like. So, I ended up keeping her and raising her.”
Bella quickly won Stolsworth’s heart.
“Bella was a Chihuahua that could make anybody who disliked Chihuahuas love Chihuahuas,” she said. “She had the sweetest personality.”
Bella even won over Stolsworth’s fiance, Steven Stine, when the two started driving together about three years ago. And that’s saying something, she said, considering that in 30 years on the road Stine had never had an animal in the cab.
“Getting used to having dogs (in the truck) actually went really, really well,” Stolsworth said. “Him and Bella created an amazing bond. They were literally Bonnie and Clyde.”
Once Toby, another Chihuahua entered the mix, the couple’s over-the-road adventures became even more adventurous. In addition, the two pups started to gain notoriety on social media, something that became clear to the couple when they’d pull in for gas or the night.
“When I had Bella and Toby, and it was just before me and Steven started teaming up, I actually pulled into a truck stop and parked for the night,” she said. “I’d take Toby and Bella outside to go for a nightly walk and somebody had got out and he said, ‘I just saw these two on Dogs in Diesel Trucks on Facebook.’ They were famous!”
Sadly, no furry family member lives forever and the couple has had to endure the heartbreak of losing the pint-sized pair. Toby succumbed to a sudden illness, and Bella was struck by a vehicle at a truck stop, adding an additional layer of pain and shock to her loss. This made Stolsworth a vocal advocate for lighted dog gear, something she preaches to every pet owner she can.
“People should definitely — especially in the trucking industry — get light-up harnesses and collars for their dogs,” she said. “The ones I use now are high-vis and they light up and are rechargeable. They’re lifesavers.”
The couple would soon adopt their next pups. Taking Bella’s and Toby’s places in the cab of the couple’s 2021 Volvo are two new fluffers — Riley, a mixed, and Scrappy Doodles, an Australian red heeler.
“My other half told me I couldn’t have another small dog,” Stolsworth said with an expression of mock dismay.
Stolsworth said she’s been gratified to see not only more people with a pet in the cab, but that truck stops are providing more amenities for the animals, making it easier to travel coast-to-coast with a dog.
“Love’s is making it a lot easier because a lot of the newer Love’s do have dog park areas. Some of the Petros do too,” she said. “And, I have noticed that Petro Express is starting to put in dog washes, which is fantastic.”
Bringing along her furry family members, as Stolsworth prefers to call them, has increased her enjoyment of trucking all the more.
“My grandpa told me, when I told him I was going to truck driving school, that it was ‘about freakin’ time, because I knew you were going to be a truck driver ever since you were a little girl,’” she said. “Until he said that, I never really even thought about it. But when he said that I started thinking about how I’d always been kind of fascinated by the way trucks look and all that other jazz.
“It’s the freedom. I love to drive,” she continued. “To me, being out on the open road — especially out in Montana, when it’s not snowing and minus 20 degrees outside — it’s amazing to be able to see the beautiful artwork that our creator has made for us.”
The couple, who are company team drivers for East-West Express out of Villa Rica, Georgia, pull a reefer, typically from Georgia hauling carpet or flooring to the West Coast and then returning with a load of produce. Stolsworth estimates the job takes them out about three weeks a month, which means the duo has had to learn how to cope with spending a lot of time together in close quarters. Keeping the peace is something the dogs have had a big hand — er, paw — in achieving.
“To be honest, it’s a surprise (Steven and I) haven’t killed each other,” she said with a grin. “Like in any other relationship, we don’t go to bed mad at each other. We will just get out of the truck, and we’ll take the dogs. We’ll just take off walking and take a breather for a little bit. Just decompress. That works pretty well.”
Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, author, editor and storyteller in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to The Trucker, his work appears in more than 35 publications across multiple states each year. Hebda’s writing has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists and a Finalist in Best Of Arkansas rankings by AY Magazine. He is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, which provides editorial services to publications and companies.