American Gymnast Kristle Lowell and Eskie Dog Koda

American Gymnast Kristle Lowell and Eskie Dog Koda


American trampoline gymnast Kristle Lowell has a secret weapon to her training – Koda, her rescued American Eskimo dog.

Kristle earned a spot on Team USA at the National Championship competition in July. She’ll compete in St. Petersburg Russia at the World Championships in November. She credits Koda with helping reach her gymnastic goals – and for adding fun and happiness to her life.


Kristle rescued Koda, who was from a puppymill, three years ago. At the time, Kristle had never even heard of an American Eskimo dog. As a puppymill dog, Koda had a horrific start to life. He was on the bottom cage with wire under his feet. All the other animals had to potty on top of him.

“I wasn’t planning to adopt a dog that day,” she said. “The minute I saw him I just knew we were soul mates. We took him out to play and he stopped shaking and fell asleep in my arms. It came time to give him back to the caretaker and I couldn’t do it.”


She later told her dad that the dog was special and he was the one.


Kristle suffers from depression, but says that Koda has been the one thing in life to make her continuously happy. “I know even if I have a bad day there is my best friend at home,” she said.

For Kristle, the hardest part about going to competitions is being away from Koda. “Koda loves holidays and it kills me if I have to miss a holiday with him due to a competition,” she said. “No matter what, we make the best of it.”


Koda’s birthday is on Cinco de Mayo, which usually overlaps with Kristle being at the Olympic training center. However, this year she was home, and she treated him to a huge birthday celebration. “We brought Koda to every pet store in Orland Park that allows dogs, and then went to a Mexican restaurant that allows dogs,” she said.

The national competitions were especially hard this year for Kristle because they overlapped with the Fourth of July holiday. “My mom makes videos for me and sends them to me so I know Koda is being spoiled enough,” she said. “I was so nervous going into finals. I just wanted to rank top 3. I was so nervous my mom let me FaceTime with Koda until 1:00 a.m. in the morning before I competed. My mom and I had fun making different noises into the phone to see Koda’s reaction.” Kristle earned a bronze medal at the competition, and was named to Team USA.

Kristle went home to celebrate with her pup. Unfortunately, both of them ended up in the emergency room on the same day. Koda accidentally ripped one of his back toenails and Kristle had an adverse reaction to a routine medical procedure. “I was so worried about him,” she said. “My dad took him to the emergency vet and my mom took me to the ER. When we were both released, we spent the next couple days in bed resting. I never felt so connected to an animal before in my life.”

Kristle has Raynaud’s disease, which limits blood circulation in cold temperatures. Because of the disease, she has never been able to go out and play in the snow. This past year, her family bought Kristle an Antarctica-approved jacket. “I got to play with Koda in the snow and it was one of the happiest moments of my life,” she said. “I’ve not been able to go outside in 15 years in winter and it was so nice enjoying this moment with my boy.”

Koda also got to go on a road trip from Orland Park, Illinois to York, Pennsylvania and came to Kristle’s modeling shoot at Alpha Factor leotards. On the way home they stopped at Hershey, Pennsylvania. “We took Koda for a walk in the parking lot at the Hershey factory and Koda started sniffing in circles and didn’t even know what direction to go. He just kept spinning around, completely in heaven from smelling all the chocolate, even though we don’t let him have any. We joked the whole way home that he blew a fuse in his sniffer.”


At the end of the day, Kristle’s Dad comes to the gym to help put away the trampoline. Koda comes along and has become a very important part of Kristle’s training. “I started working at Morgan Park Sports Center, and all the athletes I coach, know Koda,” she said. “He is a very famous dog in the city of Chicago.”

This year, Kristle will miss spending Halloween with Koda as she will be in Azerbaijan training for the World Championships. She plans to celebrate Halloween with him this year even though it might not be exactly on October 31.

Kristle also is saving up to buy a special camera so Koda can chat with her at competitions. Koda has many more road trips planned for this next year, too. “I hope more people read Koda’s story and become inspired to adopt and help an American Eskimo rescue dog,” she said. “I knew nothing about American Eskimos before meeting Koda, and it was love at first sight. Who would have known I would have found a circus dog just like me at heart.”