A girl named Fred
October 20, 2011 | by: Mike "Mustang" Crawford
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I found my dog, Fred, abandoned by the side of a gravel road April 23, 1999, the same day as my third daughter’s 29th birthday.
That day, soon after I’d delivered a load of steel to a hog farm in northwest Iowa, I saw something on the roadside that bothered me, so I stopped and got out to take a look-see. A small Rat terrier bitch had been killed and a black puppy – four or five weeks old – was huddled near her as though to say, “Wake up, Mom, I’m scared. Wake up.”
I picked the puppy up and was looking at her when she nuzzled in under my chin. “C’mon, Dog,” I told her. “You’re on the truck with me. I need a navigator.”
At first, I named her Dinkey as we headed to Norfolk, Neb., to load steel. But when we arrived at the steel mill, I changed her name to Fred in honor of the mill’s loading supervisor, Fred Smith. He stands at 7-feet, 4-inches tall and is made of 345 pounds of nothing but rawhide and spring steel. My dog’s moniker definitely was not short for any feminine name, like Fredrica.
She adjusted well to my rig, was easily potty trained and had no accidents. Often, she rode in her bed on the passenger side floor board and looked at the world from the little window in the door. Or she rode in my lap, sleeping or looking out my passenger window.
Sometimes she stood on my lap with her front feet on the steering wheel and watched through the windshield like she was driving as though to say, “This is my truck I can drive it too.” Actually, she was pretty good – she never had an accident in 1.75 million miles on the truck.
She always preferred being in my lap, my bed or her bed on the floor. She refused to ride in the passenger seat.
By the time Fred was about six months old, she’d become something like the Queen of the Castle on that truck and was jealous of others. When my wife, Phyllis, who has her CDL, ran team with me to California, Fred jumped up between us when we went to bed. If we were walking together Fred jumped up in my arms so Phyllis and I couldn’t hold hands and in the truck, Fred hit Filly’s (Phyllis’ nickname) stuff. Sometimes, she jumped into the passenger seat and rode there so Filly couldn’t. We often had to put our dog on the floor, whereupon she instantly retreated to the bed and pouted.
She loved Filly at home but that was Fred’s truck and the queen dog was not happy sharing. One day, my wife and I were outside the truck with Fred in my seat front feet on the steering wheel watching us through the windshield. As we approached the truck she jumped to the passenger’s seat and when we opened our doors, Fred was in my wife’s seat squatted peeing and didn’t stop when we hollered at her. When she finished, she jumped off the seat, ran to the back and wagged her tail as proud as a peacock. I had to get a bucket of clean water and flush it, then mop up the whole mess and put a fan to blow it dry.
After that, her jealousy seemed to ease up somewhat.
Fred died this year, the morning of March 24 in her bed on the passenger floor board. She was with me on the truck for 11 years, 11 months and one day. The only time we were separated was when I was hospitalized in Mattoon, Ill., with swine flu and the security guard was kind enough to keep her at his home for those three days.
I miss my Fred.
Mike “Mustang” Crawford is Overdrive‘s 2010 Trucker of the Year and resides in Long Lane, Mo.