After finally finding an organization that would fit her needs, Kira Stahly's application to get a diabetic alert dog was accepted at the very beginning of her sophomore year of high school. 

Roxy, a four-year-old basenji and terrier mix, arrived to her home in Lincoln, Nebraska, shortly after that. At first, Stahly recalls, the transition was hard for Roxy. She was rescued from a shelter by the organization and then trained for three months. 

“She was really stressed out for weeks,” Stahly said. “Then, we started getting a connection and now it’s just this craziest bond that I have with her.”

Stahly is now a freshman at the University pursuing a degree in elementary education. Leaving her hometown for the first time was both exciting and intimidating at the same time, she said.

“I stepped out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I met a lot of people right away and they helped me adapt.”

But the transition to college was difficult for Roxy. Stahly said Roxy was really nervous, but that fortunately, after a while, they both felt comfortable.

Stahly was originally diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes — a disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone needed to get people energy from food — when she was 2. Her mom had noticed the symptoms and pressed the doctor to test Stahly.

Now, Roxy helps her manage her blood sugar. She will paw at Stahly if she smells in her breath that her blood sugar is either dropping or rising too fast.

Having Roxy by her side everywhere she goes attracts a lot of attention. They both get stared at a lot, Stahly said. Many people will come up to her with questions or even try to pet Roxy, even though they're not allowed to. 

“Sometimes it can be kind of frustrating because if I’m in a rush or I’m not in a great mood, and people try to come and try to pet her even though it says on her vest 'do not pet' her,” she said.

But Stahly hasn't let this — or anything — hold her back. 

At the beginning of her freshman year, she even rushed a sorority. Stahly saw it as a great opportunity to meet people, and her high school cheer coach had been a mom in a sorority house, so she would talk a lot about it.

“It seemed like a really great idea because it was a way for me to not only make lifelong friends but also a way for me to get involved in the community and KU,” she said.

She ultimately joined Delta Delta Delta, which she felt was the best fit for her.

“It’s been really nice having people who I know are there for me all the time,” she said.

It was during rush that Stahly met Kiauna Garman, her best friend and now roommate. By the fourth day of meeting each other, they were already close friends, Garman said.

Over winter break, Garman, a freshman from Salina, spent a week at Stahly’s house in Lincoln.

“Her family was so welcoming and kind,” Garman said. “I can see where she gets it from.”

This could also be why Stahly enjoys helping and working with people. She's involved with the Big Event, volunteers a few hours a week at Central Elementary School and is always looking for other ways to help those who need it. 

“I think that kind of stems from me having Type 1 diabetes all my life, and me educating people about that, educating my friends and my family about it,” Stahly said.

Stahly also volunteered at an elementary school while in high school, tutoring second graders. Despite always wanting to be a teacher, it's here that she realized she liked working with children and decided to pursue a degree in elementary education. 

While this decision led to a few initial hardships for Stahly at the University, Garman said Stahly's good at dealing with the difficult situations that come with having Roxy by her side. 

“She has her diabetes, but she really doesn’t let that get to her,” Garman said. “She ignores the stares and makes it seem like it’s not a problem."

 — Edited by Allison Crist