For all of the recognition and notoriety trucker Todd Daum has achieved as Santa Claus, he might not be the most famous occupant in the cab these days. That honor could arguably go to Vincent, Daum’s cat and traveling companion.
“Vincent also has his own Facebook page, ‘Vincent the Trucking Cat,’” Daum said. “He’s been in 48 states. He’s leaped across the border at Canada. He’s leaped the border at Mexico. He rides up in the front seat or up on the dashboard all the time. I’ve got all kinds of pictures of him on the dashboard and around the truck on that Facebook page.
“I also belong to another group for cat owners; somebody said we ought to start a group, and I did,” he said. “Now there’s like 150 people that follow his antics and him scratching the hell out of my arm and everything else.”
Vincent was only five weeks old when he was adopted by Daum. In the three years since, Vincent has proved to be a natural road cat.
“I can get out of the truck with the door open, walk behind the truck, open the doors on the trailer, take the seal off and then walk back to the front of the truck — and he’ll be sitting there on the floorboard waiting for me or sitting in my seat,” Daum said. “He knows the inside of the truck is his home. Soon as we put him in his cage, he knows he’s going back in the truck. He lays down, curls up and waits. Soon as we let him out, his motor’s running like there’s no tomorrow because he knows he’s home.”
The benefits of having a pet ride shotgun are many. Daum said Vincent is a calming influence, even if he’s a little rough around the edges when showing affection.
“He’s a big help, especially when it comes to the stresses of being out on the road. I get stressed, so I grab him, hold onto him and pet him for a little bit,” he said. “It’s enough to remove the stress from the loading dock that I just couldn’t get my truck to back into, or the receiving clerk that was a complete and total ass, or the other truck driver who just took an hour and a half at the fuel pump instead of pulling forward.”
In addition to helping relieve stress caused by on-the-job aggravations, Vincent helps make the road feel like “home” for Daum, who notes that he doesn’t miss his family quite as much “because part of the family is with me.”
Just like the human members of any family, Vincent is subject to mood swings and cranky days. It’s one of the things that Daum says he likes best about his cab buddy — the authenticity of Vincent’s affection, rough around the edges though it may be.
“Animals have such an uncommitted love, but he’s a cat. He’s not a dog, you know,” Daum explained. “A dog will be on your lap and licking you all over the place. The cat is, ‘You want to pet me? Well, you can walk your butt over here to pet me.’ And I understand that.
“But I don’t treat him like a cat,” he continued. “Now, my co-driver treats him like a cat and (Vincent is) very, very gentle with her. But with me, I start on him like you start on a dog, and the teeth come out and the claws come out, and when he’s had enough, he runs away. When he wants more, he comes back.”
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.