Koa the Companion

Senior Emily Gibson and her support dog Koa have developed a companionship that is much more than your typical house pet. Over winter break, Gibson, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 9 days after her 13th birthday, and her family left for Nebraska the day after christmas to pick up Koa, who met several of Gibson’s needs.
Koa, which means “my warrior” in Hawaian, sheds a light in the shadows of Gibson’s adversities.
“He makes life a lot easier and helps me out a lot,” Gibson said. “He’s like the best dog ever.”
By using his strong sense of smell, Koa smells the sweetness of Gibson’s breath. When he notices abnormalities, he notifies her by putting his nose to her hand. If she doesn’t respond to that, Koa places his paw on her.
Almost immediately after meeting Gibson, Koa alerted her. Koa has also alerted her at night in a situation where had he not, Gibson could have been in a coma.
Gibson decided it would be a good time to get the support dog, as she is going off to college this fall. She is going to attend Baker College to study nursing. While she is out on her own, Koa will be able to watch over her.
“He is a companion to me,” Gibson said.
While Koa has many responsibilities, Gibson and her dog depend on each other.
“It’s like I’m raising a kid,” Gibson said. “He’s basically a 4 year old.”
Gibson is still adapting to the changes it takes to have a support dog. She explained that in the mornings she has to get not just herself ready, but Koa as well. However, the duties of being a pet owner don’t intimidate her at all.
As adorable as Koa may seem, she is not supposed to be pet or interacted with by strangers, due to the fact he must be working 24/7. Sadly, some strangers have prejudice against Gibson because of Koa.
“Some people give me dirty looks because I don’t necessarily look like I need a support dog,” Gibson said.
But she doesn’t let that get in the way of her enjoyment.
As the days go on, the bond between Gibson and Koa grows stronger as they continue to depend on one another.

Photo: Connor Wallis
Gibson and her support dog Koa pose for a picture in the familiar halls of Haslett High School.