While working to ensure that loads arrive at their destination safely and promptly, drivers often experience hardships and loneliness. To combat this, some drivers choose to drive as a team, but close quarters for days on end can strain even the best relationship. Solo drivers struggle even more with the mental and physical battle and lack of self-care, often missing essential family moments — which leads to even more feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Nowadays, many truckers are adding precious cargo to life both on and off the road. That precious cargo is pets. Case in point: Solo driver Eva “Driverette” Knelsen travels through life with a furry companion — Dixie, a Malachi Chihuahua. Knelsen, who drives for West Coast Transport, says she didn’t plan to take Dixie the first time she saw her.
“The reason I chose her was because I always wanted a Malachi … but I never been a fan of Chihuahuas,” she said. “When I first saw her, she was the size of a Chihuahua but had the fur of a Malachi. I decided she would be perfect.”
And the perfect match she was. Since that day, at the age of only 8 weeks, Dixie has been by Knelsen’s side. Knelsen says has enjoyed every moment with Dixie, and that the pup constantly reminds her the match was the perfect decision.
“Dixie is definitely amazing to be with. She gets me out of the truck to exercise and relax my body after driving for a while,” Knelsen said. “Since being with me, Dixie has made me feel like I’m not alone.”
Knelsen and Dixie are also well-known in the show truck circuit, along with Knelsen’s pink and white Kenworth, which is designed to bring awareness to breast cancer prevention and treatment, as well as to honor all cancer survivors.
In fact, The Trucker team caught up with the pair just this summer during the 2023 Walcott Truckers Jamboree at the Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott, Iowa.
Whether hauling freight or attending a show, traveling with a pet brings its own set of considerations. Even though issues don’t happen as often as they did when the pair first hit the road together, there are still times when Knelsen is faced with one when it comes to Dixie.
“An issue I face on the road is finding a 24-hour veterinarian clinic,” Knelsen said. “Dixie got a kibble stuck in her throat one time. I had no idea what to do. I was in a strange place and had no idea if there was a veterinarian around. I was on the phone with a friend who suggested either taking the kibble out of her throat or pushing it down. We were able to finally get it down, and she started breathing again. She really freaked me out.”
Some pet owners say having a pet is like having a child, in that planning and preparing entertainment is necessary.
“I am always prepared for the road when it comes to Dixie,” Knelsen said. “I have a box of dog toys for her to play with in the truck, but she normally doesn’t play with them while I’m driving. I also bring her food and water on the truck.”
Some drivers are bonded so closely with their pet they are always together. This is the case with Knelsen and Dixie.
“Regardless of if we are in the truck or my car, Dixie is always with me. It is very rare for me to leave her with someone else,” Knelsen said. “When I so have to leave her with someone and I come back to get her, she gives me a side eye like she’s trying to tell me, ‘You left me!’ It is always so funny to see her do that.”
Knelsen says Dixie is a fabulous dog with a dramatically funny personality, and there is never a day when the pup doesn’t put a smile on her face.
“She definitely has her own personality and is very dramatic,” Knelsen said with a laugh. “At night, when we’re getting ready for bed, she will get in the middle of the bed and lay down. She takes up the whole bed and won’t even move.
“She is also a weirdo,” she continued, still laughing. “When she finishes ‘doing her business,’ she will pounce and zoom around you over and over. I’ve had so many good times with Dixie.”
While some drivers have multiple pets, other four-legged companions seem to have ‘only child’ syndrome, and adding another pet to the mix is challenging.
“We have visited friends and family who have dogs, and Dixie plays with all of them — but she will give me this look like, ‘Don’t you dare get another dog,’ which I’m not,” Knelsen said. “It has been just me and Dixie for so long that I don’t think she will be able to adjust to having to share attention with another dog.”
While Knelsen and Dixie may be the perfect traveling companions, there have been a few close calls.
“A bad time I’ve had with Dixie was when we were parked at a rest area. I had taken my eyes off Dixie for a split second, and when I turned back around, Dixie was directly by the freeway. I panicked and took off, running towards her, yelling at her,” said Knelsen.
Knelsen says even the smallest moments can mean everything.
“When we are taking a break from the truck, I let Dixie run around and do her thing. But the moment I say, ‘Hammer down,’ she comes running to the truck in full business mode. It’s so cute to see,” she said.
“Another good time is when it snows,” she continued. “Now, Dixie does not like the cold. She does love it when it’s warm out, but the snow hasn’t completely melted; then she loves to go out and play in the snow. When she’s finished, she looks like the Michelin man, just a big fluff cloud!”
Knelsen says the opportunity to drive a big pink rig and gain a furry companion wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the transportation company that gave a would-be driver her first chance. She says she’ll never forget the first company she drove a big rig for, Trailwood Transportation — and even more so, their recruiter, Norma Clark.
“I owe everything I have in my career to them,” Knelsen said. “They gave me a shot when I didn’t have any experience. I wouldn’t have what I have now if they didn’t take that chance on me.”
Born and raised in Little Rock, AR, Erica N. Guy decided to stay in her hometown to begin her professional career in journalism. Since obtaining her bachelor’s degree from UAPB, Erica has professionally written for several publications about several topics ranging from lifestyle, tech, culture, and entertainment, just to name a few. Continuing her love for her hometown, she joined our team in June 2023, where she is currently a staff writer. Her career goals include continuing storytelling through her writing by being the best professional writer she can be. In her spare time, Erica enjoys trying new foods, cozying up with a good book, spending time with family and friends, and establishing herself as a future businesswoman.