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Dogs in trucks: Who's riding shotgun? Meet Sanza.

Posted February 7, 2022

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Endrea and her dog, Sanza in front of their CFI truck

Endrea Davisson has known she wanted to be a long-haul truck driver since she was a child growing up in Cushing, Oklahoma, and road shotgun on long haul trips with her dad. After raising her family and sending them off into the world, now settled down with families of their own, Davisson turned to her husband, Jim, also a truck driver and said “Honey, I want to get on the road and be a driver.” Right away he replied, “Let’s make that happen for you.” After researching the different trucking companies she decided to settle in with a place that was comfortable and felt family-friendly –– the company where her dad was a driver for over 20 years, CFI. Founded in Joplin, Missouri in 1951, CFI has a long legacy of caring for its drivers.

How does CFI show they care about their drivers?

“CFI does freight of all kinds, and is one of the best companies to work for in the world. Yes, my dad worked for them, but of course I did my research before joining them as a driver. They had more of a family-oriented atmosphere. That’s what drew me to them. I remember that from when my dad was there.” When I caught up with Davisson she was mid-trip on her way to Joplin, Missouri and was stopped en route due to a snow storm. Davisson said she called into her contact at CFI to describe the situation and their response was to make sure she was safe and to tell her to take care and just let them know when she was on the road again. When CFI puts the safety and needs of their drivers first in this way, it’s easy to see what Davisson means when she says she feels cared for by the folks at CFI. “They’re just great all the way around. They maintain a transparency keeping us aware of what the offices are doing, the communication is amazing – you need to know something, you just make a phone call and they’re going to find out the information you’re looking for and get it to you.

Sanza in her favorite spot, riding shotgun

Sanza in her favorite spot, riding shotgun

Who’s riding shotgun?

Davisson has a buddy she takes on the road with her, Sanza, a rescue pup she and her husband took in a little less than a year ago. “She’s a one-year-old pit mix who we adopted when she was six months old. She had a bad setting when she was little. She was kept in a crate from the time she was born until I got her so I had to start from scratch with her. No human contact. I had to start from scratch with a six-month-old puppy.”

Raising a pup who needed a lot of TLC

When Davisson first brought Sanza home to her house in Sheridan, Arkansas, Sanza did not have the best of manners so Davisson and her husband had to train her starting with the basics. “She didn’t know how to be around humans. She didn’t know how to interact with us. I had to teach her how to know when to go up to people and when not to. Other drivers don’t always want to be bothered by dogs. So we had to teach her to not just go running off to other drivers or people that she sees.”

Sanza when she first came home with Endrea

Sanza when she first came home with Endrea

Davisson said one of the keys was to have lots of toys and bones and treats to help socialize Sanza. She was immediately friendly with Jim, Davisson’s husband, but it took her a long time to warm up to Davisson. “She takes to men easier than she does to females.” When asked what tactics Davission used to gain Sanza’s trust she said “I set it at her pace and let her decide when she was ready to feel comfortable.” Eventually, Davisson won Sanza over: “Now she cuddles all the time and gives me snuggles.”

At first, Sanza was unsure about meal times. “She didn’t know what it meant to be fed regular meals. She was confused and didn’t know how to regulate her own eating.” Davisson and her husband helped Sanza gradually adapt to a routine feeding schedule. “When I first got her whenever I’d put food down she would eat it all up in one bite like she was worried she wasn’t ever going to be given more.” They taught her how to pace herself, but at first they went through a lot of dog food.

Prior to Sanza’s adoption, she had never in her six months of life been brought outside for a leashed walk. Davisson taught her how to follow alongside a person. “I first got her started on a very short leash just so she understood that she couldn’t just go wherever she wanted to go. And then we graduated to a retractable leash and now she has a training collar but after ten months of having her with us she comes on command, she’s really good about obeying us.” The first few times she bumbled around and didn’t know what she was supposed to do but once she got the hang of it she took to it. Now Sanza loves going on walks with Davisson.

What’s it like to be on the road with Sanza

Davisson loves Sanza’s company on the road. Sanza is expressive and Davisson can read her cues. “She’s very smart. She’ll talk to me. She’ll tell me when she’s not happy or when she is happy. I know what she’s talking about whenever she’s barking at me or whining at me. I know what she wants. But it’s just having her there.”

They find time and places to get out and play on the road, often truck stops have parks nearby, or some even have dog parks attached to the truck stop where Davisson and Sanza will get out and play ball during their travels.

Sanza when she hears the alarm clock

Sanza when she hears the alarm clock

Waking up in the morning mid-route, it's a special treat to have Sanza along for the ride. “When she hears my alarm clock she will come over to me, give me hugs and kisses so I wake up and what she wants is to hear me tell her ‘Good Morning, Sanza.’”

Over the last year, Davisson has gotten to know Sanza while they’ve been on the road together. “She’s curious. Very curious. She’s got to sniff and smell everything. I can be bringing groceries into the truck or go grab a new t-shirt or something at a truck stop and she has to smell it. Or if somebody comes up to the truck and I’m in the driver’s seat and a security guard or somebody comes to chat at my window Sanza climbs over me to get access to the window so she can scope out the situation. She wants to know what that person is wanting and why they’re there.”

Sanza has access to walk all over the truck when they’re on the road. “This is her truck and she does whatever she wants. She has her own special pillow and her own blanket on the bed and all kinds of toys and bones and treats.”

Comfort and security of having a dog with you as a truck driver

When Davisson and Sanza are on the road together, Sanza plays the role of guard dog and protector. “If I don’t have the blinds closed and somebody comes within ten feet of her truck (and this is her truck now) she will go crazy barking and letting me know. If she hears a noise in the middle of the night – even if it’s just somebody climbing into their own truck next door – she’s barking to let me know somebody’s out there.”

What draws someone to long haul trucking?

Davisson loves the life of a long-haul truck driver. She loves getting out and seeing the world. She remembers traveling with her dad when she was 14-years-old and getting a taste of his life of adventure. He went somewhere new every day.

A day in the life of a long-haul truck driver

A typical trip for Davisson takes her on the road for 6-8 weeks at a time. “I try to go about 500 to 550 miles a day. Sometimes I do more, sometimes I do less, but that’s my average.” She will come home for 4-5 days and then back on the road she goes. Davisson describes a recent trip: “I went from Tipton, Pennsylvania to Lancaster, California in one trip. 2,518 miles from the Eastern U.S. to the West Coast.”

When Davisson finishes a 6-8 week trip she takes her truck home with her to Arkansas. When she leaves her home for the next jaunt, she’ll sometimes start by picking up freight locally in Arkansas, as she did on her last journey. “Then I took that freight to Kentucky, and then from Kentucky I went down to West Memphis and then to Pennsylvania, then to Ohio, so it just goes wherever the loads need to go and for whomever is available to run those loads in that area.” Sometimes when making a delivery, the receiving business will have a load for Davisson to pick up, but not always. “Sometimes we’ll go maybe just down the road or the next town over.”

Being a truck driver means getting to see the beauty and vastness of the American landscape

For Davisson, the excitement of her job lies in the surprise of what she’ll see on the road. She doesn’t plan to visit monuments or cities on her route, she lets what she might see unfold for her naturally. “If I pass by a sign for something that’s a site I want to see I’ll often swing by and see it on the way, if time permits on my route.”

Endrea and her dog, Sanza on the road delivering freight for CFI

Endrea and her dog, Sanza, on the road delivering freight for CFI

Davisson treasures the sights she gets to see while out on the road and is full of gratitude for the life she’s living. “Pictures are worth a thousand words, but actually getting to see these beautiful sights is so much better. The arch over St. Louis or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, seeing them up close is way different from seeing them in a photograph or in a movie.”

Some landscapes she’s been fortunate to see stand out to Davisson. The Utah desert and the lush mountains and forests of Montana are highlights for her. “I got lucky to be able to go through Utah in the summer, and it was just gorgeous out there and then I got to go through there in winter right after it had snowed and I’d actually been on a two-lane highway behind Salt Lake City and came around a corner to see this huge lake with the mountains just right there and it was a gorgeous sight. I had to pull over and take a picture.”

Davisson’s travels follow no routine. Every route is different and takes her to new places. “The other day I dropped off in Pennsylvania, picked up in a different spot and then went and dropped off in New York, picked up in Connecticut and dropped off in Indianapolis. Picked up in Indianapolis, and I’m on my way to Missouri.” Her routes change but the way she spends her days she has routines, “I like doing the same thing but in different places.”

Who’s back home when you can get there and check in?

Davisson and her husband have a bunch of buddies for Sanza for the days when she and Davisson get to come home for a stretch. “When we go home there is my beagle mix, Sissy, and then my American Bully, Rigley. And my husband just informed me last week that we have a new Pit mix puppy in the household now. When I tell Sanza we’re going home she gets excited because she knows she’ll get to go play with her sibling pups.”

Davisson feels grateful to have Sanza riding shotgun: “She’s just a good dog. She really is. She’s got a personality and I just love having her on the road with me.”

If you want to read more about dogs in trucks, check out this story about Jameson.

To learn more about WEX, a growing and global organization, please visit wexinc.com.

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