John Unger and dog Schoep get a new lease on life after receiving $25,000 in donations

John Unger and his dog Schoep now have more time together thanks to generous donations.
John Unger and his dog Schoep now have more time together thanks to generous donations.
Photo courtesy of JAMU Enterprises.

When Hannah Stonehouse Hudson snapped a photo of her friend John Unger cradling his ailing dog Schoep in Lake Superior back in August, it seemed as though Unger's time with his beloved 19-year-old dog was drawing to a close.

Schoep was in pain from severe arthritis, and the vet told Unger that it was probably time to put him down, estimating that Schoep had only two weeks to live.

But now, thanks to some of the millions of people who were moved by Unger and Schoep's story when the photo went viral on social media, Schoep has a new lease on life.

See also:
Slideshow: John Unger and Schoep: A Closer Look

$25,000 in unsolicited donations have allowed for weekly veterinary treatments that include laser therapy, pain medication, and a joint-and-muscle supplement, according to Unger. Other gifts have included a tempurpedic dog bed and elevated food and water dishes, which have also helped improve the quality of Schoep's life.

Schoep is now able to take jaunty walks around the lake (it's getting too cold, so he and Unger no longer go for nightly swims), he sleeps through the night, and he wags his tail with more vigor.

"Schoep is doing really great," Unger said. "It's like turning back the clock -- it's amazing."

When Unger received Schoep's grim diagnosis this past summer, he had very few photos of he and Schoep together, so he asked Hudson if she would take photos during one of their evening swims -- the only thing that relieved some of the pain in Schoep's joints.

The day after the session, Hudson, a professional photographer, posted one of the photos to Facebook, and it instantly went viral. Within a week, the photo had been viewed more than 2 million times on Facebook, and shared more than 100,000 times.

"I never thought in my wildest dreams that this would get so much attention," Unger said. "It's so weird -- in a very good way."

Though Schoep's life has been affected tremendously by the generosity of strangers, Unger's life has perhaps been affected even more.

Unger has suffered with depression throughout his life, and he said that the only thing that kept him from committing suicide during one particularly dark period of his life, when a relationship ended, was Schoep.

"He gave me a look and it instantly snapped me out of that state of mind," Unger said. "He saved my life."

Since the story of their intense bond went viral,people have reached out to Unger and shared their stories of battling depression and receiving immense comfort from their pets. It has helped Unger feel connected to others and a lot less depressed.

Unger is now in the process of establishing "Schoep's Legacy Foundation." The goal of the non-profit -- to improve animal and human welfare -- is purposely broad, according to Unger, because he would like to partner with several different organizations like dog service programs, spay and neuter initiatives, and senior dog care programs.

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