As most truckers know, the job can be lonely at times. With long hours — and even longer stretches of road — many in the trucking industry can attest that you need something to pass the time.
For driver George P. George Jr., that “something” is a traveling companion that lights up his world. That buddy is of the four-legged variety — his faithful friend, Valerie.
Valerie is a pug/Chihuahua mix. George says she truly makes his time on the road a joy and that she has been a great help to him in a job that can be isolating.
“I love her because she is great company,” George said. “She’s a great watchdog. I have a tendency to get a little depressed just because I’m out here by myself. You’d think after 30 years I’d be used to it, but nobody ever perfect the art of being by yourself. It’s just not something that you can do. Valerie keeps me company.”
Born in California and raised in Massachusetts, George currently makes his home in Saint Albans, Maine, with his wife Kerry and, of course, Valerie.
Valerie is not the only dog in the couple’s lives. The family also includes Scrat, a short-haired Chihuahua, and Ellie, whom George says is “too affectionate to be a Chihuahua” and that he believes, “her heart is one size too big.” Twin pups Bert and Ernie rounded out the clan before they were adopted to another home. The family also has one cat and a kitten; George says the kitten “doesn’t really know he’s not a dog. He really has no clue he’s not a dog. Not one bit.”
“My wife and I love all these dogs and cats,” George said.
George started his trucking career in 1992 after serving in the U.S. Army. His love for trucking started at an early age, driving around his family’s farmland.
“I have family members that drive, and I think it’s just in my blood,” George said. “I think I was born to drive. It’s something that I have always wanted to do. I’ve been doing it for 30 years, and I don’t think I could do anything else.”
George currently drives for Sibley and Son out of Bangor, Maine.
“It’s a family business that started way back in the day,” George said.
While George hauls freight — mostly items such as water, gymnasium sheeting, paper goods and store fixtures — Valerie is almost always by his side.
George and Valerie’s story is a heartwarming tale.
A gift from George’s former partner Maxine, who died just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Valerie was destined to be George’s traveling partner and help keep him company on the long drives.
“Valerie was born on the Fourth of July in 2014, and she traveled with me all the time,” George said. “After Maxine passed away, I left Valerie at home for a while with someone to care for her.”
When George first met Kerry, now his wife, she was already a loving dog-mom to a senior dog. Soon, George, Kerry and the two pups stated traveling together. Once the pandemic started, Valerie wasn’t able to travel with George as much, and he sorely missed her companionship.
“Valerie is loyal to a T, but she has become quite attached to my wife,” he said. “My wife has multiple sclerosis, and Valerie has become a great companion to her as well.
“The other dogs … traveling is not really conducive for them, so Scrat and Ellie stay home with her,” he continued. “They are great watchdogs too. We live out in the middle of nowhere, and I’m glad they can keep her company.”
Valerie has a very special, yet unexpected perch whenever she travels with George: She rides on his shoulder, something that George taught her to do when she was just a puppy. As Valerie has gotten older, she also likes to sit next to George or curl up by his legs. When the two are traveling, George says, Valerie never meets a stranger, and people are always thrilled to meet her.
“As soon as I stop, she is right there, looking out the window,” George said. “She’s not a ‘little’ dog like she used to be, but she’s not a big dog either.”
When Valerie was a pup, George was always concerned about the possibility of her jumping out of the truck — and his fear came to life on one run. Luckily, his fellow truck drivers were there to save the day.
“I had backed in, and without thinking about it, I opened the door and didn’t look to see where she was,” George said. “She jumped right out onto that first step, and it’s a good drop. She jumped and ran about 10 feet and then realized how steep the drop was. She stopped and turned around and looked at me. I called her and she just froze.
“This very nice lady came along, a fellow driver, and she ran over and scooped her up,” he continued. “I just thought, ‘There’s the goodness in people’s hearts.’ If I wasn’t at a truck stop or if I was somewhere else, maybe someone would have come along, but at a truck stop there’s always someone to help. It’s like a family.”
Valerie also comes in handy when George is traveling because of her uncanny ability to “help out” in a myriad of situations. In one — quite humorous encounter — she was instrumental in helping George avoid a ticket.
“She likes to bark, and I got pulled over by the Department of Transportation in New York,” George said.
“I didn’t know what to do with her. I couldn’t have her on the seat because she would bark and possibly freak the cop out,” he said. “So, I tried (putting) her in the bunk. The cop is walking up to the truck, and I’m trying to put her up there, and she didn’t want to go. I finally got her in there, but she wouldn’t stop barking. So, needless to say, between me, the cop and the dog, it became quite interesting.
“I didn’t get a ticket and I think it was because of Valerie,” he concluded. “I was embarrassed that I couldn’t get her to stop barking. He said that he had dogs at home too, and he knew exactly what I was going through.”
During his down time, George and Valerie love to spend time with their family more than anything else.
“I have a stepson with my wife Kerry. Manny works security for two of the local hospitals,” George said. “I have three boys. My stepson Eric is Maxine’s boy. Even though we were not married, we still are very close. (He) works in Bangor at Bangor Truck and Trailer as a parts coordinator/locator. My son Thomas works for Bank of America as a vice president in IT and lives in Dallas. My youngest, Michael, is serving in the U.S. Navy and is currently in training.
“Family is very important to my wife; we have dinners at my mother-in-law’s every Sunday when my work allows for it,” he shared. “It’s a large gathering, considering my wife has four brothers and a sister — and then there is all the kids.”
George says he cannot see himself without dogs in his life.
“I will always have dogs around me,” George said. “I grew up with them and I love them. I am in the waning years of my career, but I will always have a dog.”