The picture of John Unger and his dog, Schoep, has been viewed more than 2 million times. It was taken by professional photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, an old friend of Unger’s, on July 31, just off Reiten Beach in Bayfield, Wisc.
In the caption, Hudson wrote, “Schoep falls asleep every night when he is carried into the lake. The buoyancy of the water soothes his arthritic bones. Lake Superior is very warm right now, so the temp of the water is perfect.”
Schoep, who is named after a brand of ice cream, was adopted by Unger and his fiancée from a humane society when he was only 8 months old. The puppy had been beaten by his previous owner.
“We knew we wanted to work with an animal who was abused,” Unger told the Duluth News Tribune. “I just had a vision of working with an animal to bring out his full potential.”
He said it took another eight months to earn Schoep’s trust.
When Unger and his fiancée broke up a couple of years later, he said he had thoughts of suicide, but Schoep helped him change his mind. “I don’t know how to explain it. He just snapped me out of it,” Unger said. “I just want to do whatever I can for this dog because he basically saved my ass.”
Last week, Schoep began limping badly and had difficulty sleeping. Unger took him to a veterinarian, who prescribed pain medication. Unger said that if the meds weren’t effective, he would have to end his beloved buddy’s suffering and have him euthanized.
In the meantime, to help Schoep fall asleep, Unger carries him into the warm waters of Lake Superior.
Last week, concerned that it might be one of their final times together in the lake, Unger asked Hudson to take a picture of him with Schoep. Hudson snapped the photo from a dock about 10 minutes after Unger and Schoep had gone into the water.
“In this photo, people have said they see everything from pure love to hope for the world,” Hudson told TwinCities.com. “They see peace, kindness, the relationship between man and dog. Two women, both whose husbands died from cancer, said they never thought they’d see love again, but this photo showed them love. People are leaving me messages, crying and opening up about dogs they’ve lost, spouses they’ve lost. Women are also asking me if John is single!”
Unger is a caretaker on a farm and not at all Internet savvy – in fact, he just got his first computer last February. He told the Duluth News Tribune he’s not quite sure how to respond to all the attention.
Hudson is selling mugs, t-shirts and prints of the photo and splitting the proceeds with Unger to help pay for Schoep’s veterinary care.
An anonymous donor paid for laser treatments to treat Schoep’s arthritis at the Bay Area Animal Hospital in Ashland, Wisc.
In an update on the hospital’s Facebook page today, Erik Haukaas, DVM, wrote, “Schoep has severe degenerative arthritis. He is being treated with NSAIDs-pain medication, glucosamine supplements, and Therapy Laser treatments. We have just started these treatments and it is to early to tell how effective it will be, but early reports are encouraging. John would like to thank all the donors for helping Schoep.”
To make a donation so that Schoep can continue his treatment, contact the Bay Area Animal Hospital.
PHOTO: Hannah Stonehouse Hudson/StonehousePhoto.com