The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

WSU alum uses life experiences to connect with, encourage others

How Robert Kugler used his gifts and education to succeed and help others
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COURTESY OF ROBERT KUGLER
Robert Kugler, his wife Kristen Beatty and their two children.

Life was not easy for WSU alum Robert Kugler, who grew up in a single-parent home in Nebraska and did not have the money to pay for an education after high school.

He joined the Marine Reserves in 2000 and tried to attend a community college during that time, but was never able to finish his degree, Kugler said. Then he was deployed in 2007 with his older brother, who was killed on that deployment.

After coming back to the U.S. in 2009, Kugler’s sister passed away in a car accident, he said. At the end of 2015, Bella, his chocolate lab and best friend, was diagnosed with terminal cancer that started in her leg and spread to her lungs. Shortly after, her leg was amputated so she could live her remaining months as pain-free as possible.

“I looked at it as, with losing my sister and my brother in the way that I did, there was no time. It happened out of sight, it happened instantly without warning. No saying goodbyes, no caskets. So I took Bella’s diagnosis as a gift,” Kugler said. “We’re going to use this time to be with each other. Let’s do what she can do.”

The goal Kugler had was to make it to as many states as he could with Bella and document it on social media. He and Bella lived life to the fullest during those months, Kugler said.

From his experiences, Kugler wrote the book “A Dog Named Beautiful” and documented his adventures and the healing he experienced while meeting new people and traveling around the U.S. with his best friend.

Bella passed away 18 months after her diagnosis, Kugler said. The veterinarians had given her three to six months to live.

During his travels with Bella, Kugler took photos, gained a following on social media and, through Instagram, met Kristen Beatty, who also had traveled around the U.S. with her dog, Franklin.

After Franklin passed away, Beatty messaged Kugler again and they eventually met each other in person in 2017 and got married in 2020. Franklin and Bella are what brought the two of them together, Beatty said.

“We always talk about it,” Beatty said. “It was them.”

Over the next few years, Kugler and Beatty had two children, and during that time, Kugler decided to go back to school to get a degree. He chose WSU Vancouver in 2021 and spent the first year online before attending it in person until he graduated in 2023. After being in the bottom 30% in high school, getting a bachelor’s degree was very rewarding, Kugler said.

The Murrow College of Communication was what stood out for him when choosing a school, Kugler said.

“Every class that was required looked like something that I would have interest in taking,” Kugler said.

He used his Integrated Strategic Communications degree to help with his own storytelling and campaign work, Kugler said. He also helped other veteran organizations with social media and branding.

“I was very proud of him,” Beatty said. “He had so many nights that he literally didn’t sleep … he started when my daughter was maybe just 1 and then he finished when my son was born.”

Kugler said he is still yearning for the freedom of new adventures. He hopes to write another book in the near future about his experiences and use his photography skills to tell stories and bring people together.

“That’s what I see my camera as, as my tool to go to places and to be in new experiences,” Kugler said. “My purpose and how I serve is to capture those things and bring them back and share them.”

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About the Contributor
ANNA ADAMS, Managing editor
Anna Adams started at The Daily Evergreen her senior year in October 2023 as a life reporter and multimedia editor. Currently, in the spring 2024 semester, she is the managing editor. Anna is a Pullman native and is studying multimedia journalism. In her free time she enjoys reality tv, traveling and trying new coffee shops.