Doniel Kidd thought he recognized the frisky Australian shepherd running along the side of the highway in rural Athens, Louisiana, on a warm spring afternoon last year. So the 51-year-old UPS driver pulled over his delivery truck and hollered out an offer: “Reba! Want a ride?”
After the dog hopped in and settled into the passenger’s seat, Kidd then drove two miles up the road and dropped Reba off at her home, to the delight of her owner, Staci Burns. “Doniel loves all of the dogs along his route,” the 33-year-old dental hygienist tells PEOPLE. “What a terrific guy.”
Several weeks ago, when Burns spotted Kidd taking a selfie in her yard with Reba and her two other dogs, Buster and Jade, she pulled out her phone to document the fun, then put the video on her Facebook page. Now the post has gone viral, with more than 5 million views, to the amazement of Kidd, who says he was simply looking out for his favorite loyal customers.
“I don’t have any dogs of my own, and I come home to an empty house after working all day,” Kidd, who is single, tells PEOPLE. “All dogs want is to be loved and appreciated, so when I’m out on my route, I try to show them the love they show me. They’re my babies.”
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After 21 years with UPS, Doniel has learned a thing or two about how to calm barking canines and turn them into friends.
“He gives the dogs a chance — he’s not afraid of any of them,” Burns tells PEOPLE. “I had one person tell me, ‘Our UPS man carries a big stick and will poke a dog if it gets near him.’ You sure wouldn’t see that with Doniel. He always makes sure to get down on the dog’s level and let them know he’s their friend. I guess you could call him the ‘Dog Whisperer.’ “
Doniel has shared his lunch with dogs along his route before, and he doesn’t mind if one hops in for a short ride now and then.
“Everybody loves him— even the people who don’t have animals,” says Burns. “Not only does he love dogs, he’s also good at his job. He’ll always put packages where he knows the dogs won’t get to them and tear them up.”
Doniel, who spent 27 years in the military until retiring from the Air Force, admits that he’s a softie at heart.
“With all the negative things going in the world today, it brightens me to see dogs like Reba come to the truck to greet me,” he says. “Dogs aren’t worried about everyday life. My friends along my route love me unconditionally, no matter what’s going on. I’m happy to brighten their day, just like they do mine.”