The large, friendly dog hobbled onto school grounds six years ago and quickly won a place in the hearts of students and staff at the Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy in St. Xavier.
After nursing the female rottweiler mix back to health from a leg injury, the school decided to make it official and named the dog Mission, giving her a special recognition in the small community on the Crow Reservation.
On March 4, at about 7:45 p.m., someone drove onto school property and fired at least six shots at Mission, including two shots fired as a school employee ran toward the sound of the crying dog.
Mission was mortally wounded.
"We've had dogs come and go, but never one that stuck around like she did," said Garla Williamson, the principal at the private school for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. "She adopted us, and we adopted her."
The shooting of the beloved school mascot on school grounds has Williamson and others hoping that a small reward will lead to the arrest of the person responsible. The school is collecting donations for the reward, and no amount has been specified, Williamson said.
The shooting is being investigated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but so far no solid leads have developed, Williamson said.
The shooting especially bothers Williamson because it happened on school property. Fortunately, it was in the evening and no children were in the area, although one employee's children had just gone inside a residence, she said.
"The boldness just blows me away," Williamson said.
Samantha Stoddard said she was watching television and heard through an open window at her campus residence what she thought were fireworks outside. She then heard Mission cry and yelp in pain. Stoddard, a first-grade teacher's aide, ran outside.
The dog was trying to get to the house through an open area, and Stoddard said she saw a white sedan parked at a cattle guard near the entrance to the school property.
"I heard two more shots as I was running toward her," Stoddard said.
The car drove away, and Stoddard found Mission collapsed on the ground and bleeding badly, she said. With the help of others, Stoddard carried Mission to the porch of her residence. It was obvious the dog was seriously wounded and in pain, she said, and there was no veterinarian available.
The group decided to end Mission's suffering as quickly as possible and someone got a gun.
"She was trying to die, and it was really painful," she said.
Stoddard and Williamson said school staff struggled to find a way to tell the students about the loss of Mission. After a few days and numerous questions, they broke the news.
"The kids were really upset," Williamson said.
Stoddard said Mission is buried near her residence, and the children have been making regular visits to the grave.
"It's turned into a little shrine," she said.