MARENGO – Northern Illinois University has turned to a Marengo dog breeder to find a replacement for Diesel, the soon-to-be retired Siberian Husky mascot who has roamed the NIU sidelines for the past nine years.
NIU, which faces Bowling Green Friday for the Mid-American Conference championship, is retiring Diesel at the end of the 2013 season to make way for Mission, a 2-year-old Siberian Husky from Aliak Kennels in Marengo.
“I think Mission is an excellent fit for NIU,” said Karen Street, owner of Aliak Kennels. “He’s the perfect example of an athlete. He’s certainly got the energy to keep up with all four quarters of the game.”
But Mission hasn’t always exhibited the athleticism he shows today.
Mission was bought from Aliak Kennels as a puppy and it was later realized that his rear legs were growing inward.
Displeased with the look of the dog, the owner returned Mission back to Street.
After Street switched Mission’s food and sent him to physical therapy, Mission outgrew his leg issue and became the healthy, strapping dog seen today.
At first overlooked for his perceived faults, but eventually recognized for his accomplishments, Mission is the perfect representative of the NIU football team, Street said.
“He’s a stunning dog,” she said. “The important thing is that he represents the athletes. He’s willing to work and loves to learn.”
Mission was given to NIU by alumni John and Cassandra McKearn, who donated the money to NIU, which in turn will reimburse Aliak Kennels. Street did not know the agreed upon figure, but said show dogs like Mission – if he wasn’t neutered – range from $1,200 to $1,800.
Mission will still live in Marengo when he’s not on duty for football games or other campus events. NIU Army ROTC students will be Mission’s handlers when he is in DeKalb.
“They plan on using him quite a bit,” Street said. “He loves the college-age group. He adores that age. He’s going to have a lot of fun with them.”
Mission is the second consecutive NIU mascot to hail from McHenry County. Diesel, the retiring mascot, is from Harvard.