Local dog reunited with owner after accidental cross-country trip with truck driver
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IDAHO FALLS — When Nichole Gasser’s dog disappeared, she had no idea her eight-year-old Sweet Pea was having the time of her life — riding shotgun across the country with a stranger in a semi-truck.
It was just another Tuesday morning, and Gasser was following her daily routine. She let the Australian Shepherd Blue Heeler outside before she left for work but when Gasser came home that afternoon, she didn’t see Sweet Pea. She didn’t think that was too out of the ordinary as her farm dog usually wanders, but Gasser said she never would actually leave the property.
Gasser went back to work and it wasn’t until she returned home that evening, with Sweet Pea nowhere to be found, that panic set in.
“I posted her to every Facebook page or social media page I had to try to find her,” Gasser said. “I called the shelters with no luck, and she is chipped.”
A few days passed, and Gasser received a call from an administrator on one of the Facebook pages where the missing dog post had been shared. The person told her that she was also an administrator on a trucker Facebook page where a message about a lost dog had been posted.
Gasser tracked down the post and found the Facebook profile of the person who wrote it. His name was Cody Chipps.
“I messaged him and said, ‘I think you have my dog.’ And I sent him a picture,” Gasser said. “He said, ‘I think I do.’”
On Thursday, the two called each other to put together the missing pieces. Chipps told Gasser he was at Rigby Produce — across the street from the Gasser home — loading his truck. He noticed a dog weaving in and out of truck traffic. He tried calling her over, but Sweet Pea was hesitant, as Chipps also told her to watch out for the trucks so she wouldn’t get hit.
Chipps left his door open as he unloaded his truck and Sweet Pea eventually approached him.
“She comes up to me, and I pet her, and the second I pet her, I’m like, ‘She’s warmed up to me,'” Chipps said. “Well then, I take my gloves off, and before I knew it, she had jumped into my truck and was in the passenger seat.”
He walked around Rigby Produce and asked people if this was their dog. Some workers in the mechanic shop told Chipps the dog had been coming by for the past two weeks. Chipps then called vet clinics and law enforcement, but nobody knew who owned the dog.
“I was under the assumption that this was just some trucker’s dog they abandoned,” Chipps said.
Chipps needed to get back on the road and the animal shelters he called either weren’t answering or accepting strays. He wasn’t sure what to do but Sweet Pea knew what she wanted.
He put the dog outside and pulled out of the parking lot, but Sweet Pea began running alongside his truck. Chipps pulled over, got out and said, “What’s wrong, girl?” She whimpered for a second and jumped right back into his truck.
“I’m like, ‘OK. I guess you’re going with me,'” Chipps said.
When Chips told Gasser the story of how the two met, he was shocked to learn Sweet Pea lives across the street from Rigby Produce. When Gasser asked where the two were at the moment, it was her turn to be surprised.
Man and dog had put in plenty of miles on the road. Chipps bought Sweet Pea a blanket, squeaky toy, leash, collar and food as they trucked across the country – making it as far as Omaha, Nebraska.
Chipps didn’t know her name was Sweat Pea and was calling her Maggie. Even though he didn’t have the name right, he said she was “amazing” on the road trip. She let him know when she needed to go to the bathroom, eat and drink water. She would cuddle up next to him on the bed to fall asleep at night.
Chipps kept Gasser updated on how her little one was doing as they made their way back to Idaho. He sent pictures of her sleeping and even one of her paws on his hand as he held the gear shifter.
The joyous reunion occurred Sunday night at Love’s Travel Stop where Gasser and her son picked up Sweet Pea and met the person who rescued their dog.
Coming across abandoned animals isn’t new to Chipps. But with his 26 years of trucking, he has never had an experience like this one.
“We joke that she wanted to see the country before she got home,” Gasser said. “The adventures of a traveling pup.”
She adds, “I’m thankful that someone found her that was sincere enough to bring her back. The world is definitely not like that anymore. For her to get in someone’s truck that was so honest and caring for her, that’s all I could ask for.”
As for Sweet Pea, Gasser said not only will she be tagged, but she will be staying inside when nobody is home so she can learn her lesson. If she goes outside, Gasser said she certainly will be on a leash.
And while Chipps may have lost his traveling buddy, Gasser said he is welcome to hang out with Sweet Pea whenever the trucker makes a stop at Rigby Produce in the future.