The beautiful image of a man lulling his arthritic dog to sleep in Lake Superior has moved so many people that John Unger, 49, and his dog Schoep, 19, have established a foundation to assist other pets in need.
Thanks to donations from people as far afield as Saudi Arabia and Japan, the Schoep Legacy Foundation has raised more than $25,000 to assist low-income families care for their aged pets.
Mr Unger’s professional photographer friend Hannah Stonehouse Hudson recorded the painful moment between the guy and his old rescue dog in Wisconsin when Mr Unger felt his dearest companion was nearing the end of his life.
Schoep, on the other hand, has been receiving excellent care and is wagging his tail more than ever before, allowing Mr Unger and his dog to spend more time together.
‘Schoep is doing fantastic right now,’ Mr Unger told MailOnline. ‘The medicines that individuals have contributed are like turning the clock back a year and a half.’
Schoep’s veterinarian, Dr Erik Haukass, stated that the 19-year-old dog is doing extremely well and that they are hopeful that the therapies will allow Mr Unger and Schoep to live for many more months.
‘Without therapy, John and I were discussing euthanasia at the end of July,’ said Dr Haukass.
He was on the front lines when the donations for Schoep’s treatment arrived, and he was taken aback by their size.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ he said. ‘We realized we had gotten more money than we could properly spend on Schoep’s care,’ says one of the recipients.
Schoep’s Legacy Foundation was founded by the three of them, together with Mr Unger and Mrs Hudson.
‘The aim is to pay it forward; to give it to other groups, to help other animals in the region, and to use the money in the spirit in which it was donated,’ Dr Haukass explained.
The $25,000 will be used to assist low-income households in caring for their animals, including the care of aging dogs and the spaying and neutering of new pets.
‘It could benefit another 30 or 40 Schoeps,’ added Dr Haukass.
But, in addition to assisting animals, Mr Unger has found himself coaching individuals who have suffered a tragic loss in their life.
People have been emailing Mr Unger their own stories of sorrow in addition to money.
‘They’re dealing with their own despair. These are incredibly personal and emotional letters. ‘Those are the ones that really touched home,’ Mr Unger added.
‘However, they look at Hannah’s photograph and that helps them cope. That is rather remarkable.’
Mr. Unger has firsthand experience with love and sorrow.
Mr Unger and his ex-fiancée adopted Schoep 19 years ago, but when the relationship broke, he was on the verge of committing himself.
‘To be honest, I don’t think I’d be here if Schoep wasn’t with me’ (that night). He simply jolted me out of it. I’m not sure how to put it. He simply jolted me out of it. … ‘I simply want to help this dog because he practically rescued my ass,’ he explained.
When Schoep was in such agony, it was Mr Unger’s turn to repay the favor.
The animal could scarcely walk and could not sleep through the night due to painful arthritis.
‘We weren’t expecting something like this,’ Mr Unger added. ‘Then, once the donations for his care began, they didn’t stop.’
Schoep has been receiving joint laser treatments from the Bay Area Animal Hospital, which minimize discomfort and swelling while repairing the animal’s limbs, as well as pain medicine.
‘He’s walking so much faster,’ said Mr Unger. ‘His stride and gait are lengthier. It’s incredible.’
Dr. Haukass has also seen a shift in the animal.
‘He sleeps all night long. ‘He wants to go for more walks during the day,’ Dr Haukass stated. ‘He walks with a less noticeable limp. His ears are up and his tail is wagging more.’