A dog’s unwavering affection is a strong thing. Just consult Bayfield, Wisconsin’s John Unger.
Schoep, a shepherd mix, has been Unger’s faithful friend for the past 19 years. Two weeks ago, Unger discovered that his dog could soon need to be put to sleep due to severe arthritis. He was heartbroken and resolved to ease Schoep’s suffering.
Unger accompanied his elderly dog to one of their favorite locations: Lake Superior, knowing that people with arthritis benefit from water therapy. He planned to make Schoep feel weightless and calm by taking advantage of the lake’s warmer-than-normal summer temps. In light of the veterinarian’s dismal diagnosis, Unger also called his friend Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, a photographer, to see if she had time to take a particular picture of Schoep just in case.
For around five minutes, Stonehouse Hudson met them by the lake and took a few pictures. A few days later, on August 1, she posted on Facebook her favorite picture of the man and his dog, sparking an instant phenomenon.
The image had about 300,000 likes and 32,000 comments as of Thursday on her Stonehouse Photography Facebook page. Unger has been attempting to acclimatize to his sudden fame ever since the photo went viral.
He said to TODAY.com that he was “truly in shock” for the first four days. He claimed that over the first two days, he read every single Facebook comment. The majority of them express praise for Unger and words of encouragement for Schoep.
Unger recalled that after reading five of them, he would lose focus for ten minutes before returning to it. It makes my mood soar even higher to realize that this image has boosted their spirits.
Although for various reasons, Unger really started floating Schoep on Lake Superior 13 years ago. Schoep’s poor swimming ability and general dislike of the water were the initial causes. Years passed before he was persuaded to even fetch a ball out of the lake, much less swim in it.
When he entered the water, Unger recounted, “He wouldn’t swim; he would just place his paws on my shoulders and want to be held.” “Suddenly, he fell asleep one of these occasions. Since then, we’ve been doing it periodically.
Since Schoep’s diagnosis, he has increased his lake soaks. Unger claimed that despite his belief that Schoep’s limp will never disappear, he has already noticed progress in it.
The couple split up about a year after Unger and his fiance adopted Schoep. Before she moved for graduate school in Colorado, the two shared custody of Schoep; after that, it was just the man and his dog.
Unger claimed that he has battled depression his entire life and that the breakup of his relationship caused him to go through a difficult period. He accompanied Schoep to Lake Michigan, where they frequently went for evening walks in those days, on one particularly trying night.
He admitted, “I went out on the breakwater and I was thinking about suicide.” And after spending about an hour outside contemplating things, I decided that now was the right moment to act. I don’t know what it was, but when I looked down at Schoep, he was giving me a look that I had never seen before. He recognized there was a problem as I look back on it.
Schoep’s glance was all it took to pull Unger back from the edge. We continued to walk until daybreak after he “simply snapped me out of that situation.” He praised Schoep for saving his life the following day.
Unger sobbed as he thought about how much Schoep had given him and how he had always done his best to provide for him. He continued, “Schoep has given me his all, no matter what the circumstances, even when I can’t get him the best food. I’ve never had a lot of money, and especially going through the depression I couldn’t hold a job.”
Strangers started offering assistance when Stonehouse Hudson’s photo circulated so widely online. He claimed that “a woman from Virginia essentially paid for the most recent laser therapy on his joints.” “I don’t know how much it costs, but she paid for a whole treatment, and I know I couldn’t have done that,” the speaker said.
Schoep recently finished his second therapy session and still has four more to go. When Unger brought Schoep in for his most recent appointment, he received a surprise. His vet grinned at him as he entered. “What’s happening?” Asked Unger. “See all the stuff behind me,” the veterinarian added. Schoep had supplies of glucosamine, treats, and other medications to deal with his joint trouble, Unger saw.
People from all over are doing this, Unger sobbed as he said. It’s really unbelievable. I don’t have to worry about anything at the vet anymore because donations have already poured in so much.
The contributors are all anonymous. He asked, “How do I thank them?” It’s simply such a wonderful thing.