reported on the story of John Unger and his 19-year-old dog Schoep recently. Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, a photographer, captured a beautiful photo of Unger and his dog, having a therapeutic swim in Lake Superior. When the photo was published on Facebook, it immediately went viral.
said of the photo, "This 19 year old [Schoep] being cradled in his father’s arms [July 31] in Lake Superior. [Schoep] 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."
Now, thanks to donations from moved individuals, Schoep is undergoing regular laser treatment for his arthritis.
The story is a moving one. Unger and his ex-fiancée adopted Schoep from a Wisconsin animal shelter 19 years ago.
broke up a while ago, Unger contemplated suicide, but says that Schoep brought him back from the brink.
"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," he said.
Initially, Unger and his ex-fiancée shared custody of Schoep, but when she moved to Colorado, he took over full custody. They have been the closest of pals ever since. However, two weeks ago, Schoep's arthritis got so bad that the veterinarian said it might be the end for him.
Unger says, "About two weeks ago I took Schoep in for a check up because he was limping."
The veterinarian recommended pain medication but said that this would only be temporary, or might not help at all.
Unger says that the vet told him, ""If there isn't any improvement, we should probably...", a good vet wont say "put him down," but he said at that point I may start to want to think about it."
He then contacted Hudson and organized the photo shoot.
After posting the viral photo of Unger and his pet, strangers were so moved that they donated money for Schoep to have treatment, to ensure that Unger and Schoep have more time together.
"A woman from Virginia basically paid for the latest laser therapy on his joints. She paid for a full treatment, and I don’t know how much it is, but I know I couldn’t have done that," Unger told MSNBC.
"People from all over are doing this. I can’t believe it. So much has come in already in donations that I don’t have to worry about anything at the vet anymore."
says that Schoep has already had three treatments.
"I have seen improvements in Schoep's ability to walk,' he told the MailOnline. 'He's walking faster. He's holding his head higher."
A spokeswoman for the veterinary clinic said that 19 people have made considerable donations to Schoep's treatment, amounting to nearly $2,000.
Schoep's veterinarian, Erik Haukaas, said he was 'overwhelmed' by the generosity of strangers.
Haukass said, "John is a great guy but he doesn't have a whole lot of money. He does the best he can to care for the dog."
He said that prior to the donations, all Unger could afford was the basic pain medication.
"He's failing. He's slowing down. Most dogs don't live near this long," Haukass said. "And then the picture came out and everyone wants to help."
laser treatments reduce pain and swelling while healing the animal's limbs. Each session costs approximately $50.
'It's like putting oil on a rusty joint,' Haukass explained, saying that Schoep will need these treatments every few weeks "forever", but should be able to spend his golden years pain-free.
"Schoep is doing very well. I don't think John has to worry about Schoep for quite a while," he said.
In other news, Hudson says that "Women are also asking me if John is single!" And it turns out that not only is he single, he is actively looking for a relationship.
He told the Deluth News Tribune
, "Boy, is it tough to meet women up here. So this might open up a new road."