Mission II to celebrate first Homecoming


Northern Star File Photo

Mission II sitting before NIU’s game against Maine last September.

By Gabriel Fiorini

DeKALB — Mission II, or “Mini Mish,” recently inherited the position of NIU’s live mascot following Mission I’s retirement in September. This week will mark Mini Mission’s first homecoming at NIU.

Students, faculty, staff and alumni can spot Mini Mission on the sideline of the Huskie Stadium during football games and campus events.  

The university purchased Mission II from Aoi Kita Kaze Siberians, a private breeder in Wisconsin.

Lisa Boland, Mini Mission’s co-owner and trainer, spent almost a year looking at puppies all over the country to find the right one. 

Boland said that Mini Mission’s skills as a university mascot were evident from the first time she saw the puppy. 

“He was the right one even from four weeks old,” Boland said. “His breeder sent me a video, and he was the only one talking, socializing. I was like, this one might have it.” 

Boland professed the importance of personality in an official live mascot. 

“I knew I was looking for a dog that was more people-focused, a dog that this is really all he wants to do,” Boland said. “He just wants to be petted, loved, hugged. Lots of energy to do the fun stuff.”

Being a live mascot is no easy task. The title of official live mascot requires training that includes work on obedience, tricks and camera skills. 

His mascot duties require him to be obedient and well mannered in his interactions with fans and campus visitors. 

“In terms of interacting with people, he loves everybody, but actually, he really loves children,” Boland said. “He loves kids and babies, and he’s very gentle with them.

Mini Mission turned two years old in July, but he has already learned several tricks and established an appetite for Starbucks puppuccinos. 

“He’ll catch anything you throw at him, so like treats, pom poms, the whole nine yards; he’s working on a ‘sit pretty,’ like a beg, which is real cute,” Boland said. “He likes to give a high fives; that’s probably his favorite.”

Boland touched on the advantages of universities having live mascots.

“I just see people again and again at games and at Mission Mondays, you know, they just want to hug a real dog. Especially on campus, a lot of students have left their pets behind at home, and they miss their dogs,” Boland said. “There’s just something so fun about having a real animal that you can be like, ‘this is our husky.’”

Funding for Mission I and Mini Mission comes from John and Cassandra McKearn, NIU alumni and donors. His funds are also covered by his appearance at events, and it costs $100 an hour to book Mini Mission for on-campus events.

“Literally anyone can book him; we get requests from students, we get requests from clubs, we get requests from alumni,” Boland said. “He’s got a birthday party that’s coming up on his schedule.” 

Boland, who is a nationally certified dog trainer with 15 years of experience, was originally hired by the university to do the initial training. It was apparent, though, that Mission I would need continual training. 

“I ended up coming into the university as an ongoing basis; I also have a strong background in social media management, so then we started all that fun,” Boland said. “Mission I had an Instagram and Twitter. Now, this guy has all that plus a TikTok and Snapchat.”

Follow Mini Mission’s on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.