The touching photograph of a man wading in Lake Superior in Wisconsin with his arthritic dog captured millions of hearts and an outpouring of donations after it was posted online last month, allowing the dog’s owner to get veterinarian treatments and start a foundation to help other dogs in need.
“Schoep is doing incredible right now,” said 49-year-old John Unger of his 19-year-old shepherd mix. “The therapies that the people have donated—it’s like turning back the clock a year and a half.”
Schoep wasn’t sleeping through the night and had problems walking, because of his worsening condition, so Unger would take Schoep into the lake on a regular basis, providing the animal with relief from his arthritis.
The bond between Unger and Schoep was captured by photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson on July 31, when she photographed the moment the trusting dog fell asleep in his owner’s arms after the buoyancy of Lake Superior’s warm waters soothed his arthritic bones.
More than $25,000 in donations poured in from people as far away as Japan and Saudi Arabia, who were in awe of the photograph posted on Facebook that displayed the unbreakable bond between Unger and his canine companion.
The contributions have helped Unger give Schoep the necessary joint laser therapy treatments needed to aid his debilitating arthritis and extend his life.
“Without treatment, John and I were talking about euthanasia at the end of July,” Erik Haukass, Schoep’s veterinarian, told the Daily Mail.
Schoep’s Legacy Foundation was created after Unger and Haukuss “realized we had received more money than we would reasonably spend on Schoep’s care,” the veterinarian said. The laser therapy treatment costs $200 per session.
The foundation will help low-income families care for their aging canines and “could help another 30 or 40 Schoeps,” Haukass said. The foundation will also help families spay and neuter new pets.
“The idea is to pay it forward; give it to other organizations, to help out other animals in the area and use the money in the spirit it was given,” Haukass said.
“The fact that I have taken a photo that has made this many people remember and feel love is more than I could ever, possibly hope for. Use it, channel it, pay it forward. Do good things,” Hudson wrote on the official Facebook fan page of Schoep and John.
Unger, who has owned Schoep since he was 8-months-old, has been posting pictures and updates of his dog’s progress on the Facebook page, keeping over 80,000 fans abreast of the details of Schoep’s vet visits.
“Good morning! The week is off to a great start. Schoep is fantastic! Active, alert, happy--waggin his tail with vigor! Next laser therapy appointment is this Wednesday. I cannot tell you how much Schoep has improved since starting this process. And, he seems to really enjoy it!,” was the latest post on the Schoep and John Facebook page on Monday.
The Schoep’s Legacy Foundation also has a website that allows visitors to make donations and purchase prints, t-shirts and other gifts of the photo that “turned into an Internet love fest, and an incredible adventure,” the website stated.