A photographer, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, captured a special moment between John Unger and his arthritic 19-year-old dog Schoep, taking a therapeutic evening swim in Lake Superior. Hudson posted the photo to Facebook and it went viral instantly.
According to The Huffington Post, Unger adopted the dog and named him after a famous Wisconsin ice cream when he was a puppy.
Now at 19 years old, Schoep is old with arthritis and has trouble sleeping, Pioneer Press reports.
Detroit Free Press comments animal lovers worldwide have been moved by this photo that captures the bond between the man and his dog.
The photo shows Unger lying in the water and holding his dog afloat. The dog rests his head on Unger's chest and appears blissfully reposed. According to Life With Dogs, Unger takes the arthritic Schoep to the warm waters of Lake Superior regularly, where the dog relaxes and sleeps.
Hudson posted the photo to Facebook with a description of the relationship between the man and his dog:
"This 19 year old Sheep being cradled in his father's arms last night in Lake Superior. Shep 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. I was so happy I got to capture this moment for John. By the way, John rescued Shep as an 8 month old puppy, and he's been by his side through many adventures."
The photo has received more than 2 million views, thousands of likes, shares and comments on Facebook, Pioneer Press reports.
She told The Huffington Post: "John lives for this dog, and for the dog's comfort. My mother has a saying, 'Everything is for the comfort and convenience of the Dog.' John is a prime example of this. I want people to identify with this photo, and remember a time when they felt safe, loved, and cared for. Then I want them to channel those feelings and pay it forward! There is way too much negativity in this world - maybe with this one photo we can start to change things just a tiny bit."
Hannah Stonehouse Hudson
John Unger and his dog Schoep in Lake Superior
Pioneer Press reports Hudson said: "My specialty is documenting relationships, whether it's a wedding or a man and his dog. I have known my friend John and his dog, Schoep, for six years. I have seen Schoep age -- he's 19 now. John lives his life in a kind way. He rescued this dog as a puppy, they have gone everywhere together ever since. Schoep has arthritis now, and John finds that the water is therapeutic. He is the kind of person who wants his animals to be comfortable. I wanted to capture their relationship. I told John, 'I really need to get photos of you and your dog.'"
Hudson recounts how the photo was snapped and how, unexpectedly, it went viral:
"Last Tuesday, we met at the beach for the photo. While John swam with the dog, I got on the dock so I could be at eye level. It took five minutes... In the shot, the dog is completely relaxed, with his head on John's shoulder, eyes closed, out cold. John's eyes are closed, too. The water is calm. It's completely serene.
"That night, I wrote on Facebook about the amazing photo session I had just had with a dog that is 19 years old and his human. It was just a preview of the photo, but people freaked out about it. I had no idea they'd get so excited!
"The next night, Wednesday, I was exhausted from shooting a wedding, but I knew I had to post that photo... Within minutes, there were 100 likes. The next morning, Thursday, there were 600 shares. It was crazy.
"On Thursday, I was shooting a wedding on Madeline Island. My friends were emailing me, asking me if I'd seen what was happening with the photo on Facebook. I said, 'No, I'm working.' By then, there were 5,000 shares. I literally broke down in tears.
"I am not a posed photo person. My photos are always in the moment, translating what I see in my heart and mind and showing it to others. I never thought that this many people would see the same thing.
"In this photo, people have said they see everything from pure love to hope for the world. 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!
"I know this is not about me -- it's about a guy who loves his dog -- but I am in complete awe that my photo has had such an impact."The Huffington Post reports the Duluth News Tribune interviewed John Unger. Unger described how Schoep saved his life after he broke up with his former fiancee. He said he was having suicidal thoughts. He continued: “To be honest with you, I don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t have Schoep with me (that night). He just snapped me out of it. I don’t know how to explain it. He just snapped me out of it. … I just want to do whatever I can for this dog because he basically saved my ass.”
The Minnesota Public Radio reports that the popularity of the photo has spurred donations to help pay for laser treatment for Schoep's arthritis.
Pioneer Press reports prints can be purchased from the photographer, and part of the proceeds will go toward vet bills for Schoep.