Changing of the guard (dog) at Illinois college
Northern Illinois' high-fiving mascot Diesel is retiring, but a young husky named Mission is ready to take over his duties.
Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 08:00 AM
Photo: Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images
Northern Illinois University will soon say goodbye to Diesel, the husky that served as the football team's mascot for nine years.
Diesel, who’s famous for raising his paw to give high-fives, will retire at the end of the season.
"In many ways, Diesel has become the face of Huskie football over the past nine years," the school's athletic director, Sean Frazier, said in a news release. "He’s been the constant figure on the sidelines representing NIU, whether home or away, at bowl games, spring games and more. He’s a fan favorite, the TV cameras love him and he's a great dog."
Diesel and his owner, Tom Bonnevier, were honored at NIU's Senior Day celebrations at Huskie Stadium last month, and fans were introduced to Diesel's replacement, a 2-year-old husky named Mission.
While Diesel will still be welcome at NIU games as the school's "mascot emeritus," Mission will take over the official mascot duties.
The young dog was donated to the school by alumni. University ROTC members — who have already given Mission the rank of colonel — will handle and train him.
Mission comes from a championship line of Siberian dogs at Aliak Kennels.
"He’s the perfect example of an athlete," the kennel's owner, Karen Street, told the Northwest Herald. "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’s known for today.
When Mission's original owners realized his rear legs were growing inward, they returned the puppy to the kennel.
But with the help of physical therapy, Mission outgrew the leg issue, and he has a new home at NIU.
Now he just needs to learn how to give high-fives before the start of the 2014 season.
Watch Diesel give a high-five in the video below.
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