Touching photo of man cradling sick dog to sleep goes viral

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Daily Buzz

John Unger takes his dog, Schoep, into Lake Superior.

In case you needed another example of the profound bond between human and dog, a photo snapped of a Wisconsin man rocking his sick pooch to sleep in Lake Superior may fill that quota for a long time.

Photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson captured the image of her friend, John Unger, cradling his 19-year-old dog, Schoep, in the Great Lake.

Schoep suffers from arthritis and his advanced condition has made it difficult for the aging canine to get any rest.

To ease his pain and help him relax, Unger started taking his best buddy out into the warm water. The gentle rocking motion acts as a sort of therapy and allows Schoep to grab some much-needed shuteye.

But what started out as a visual memento of Unger's deep love for his dog has touched a global heartstring.

To date, the photo posted on Hudson's Facebook page has gone viral, attracting two million views and hundreds of thousands of "likes" and shares.

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Hudson told Pioneer Press that she's overwhelmed, but not surprised by the public reaction.

"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," she said.

"I want people to identify with this photo, and remember a time when they felt safe, loved, and cared for," Hudson added.

Unger and his fiancée rescued Schoep when the Shepherd mix was an eight-month-old pup.

Schoep had been abused by his former male owner and Unger told the Duluth News Tribune that it took close to a year before the dog was able to trust him.

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Unger kept the dog after he and his fiancée split and he credits Schoep, named after a popular Wisconsin ice cream brand, with saving his life after the breakup caused him to spiral into a deep depression and experience suicidal thoughts.

"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," Unger told the paper.

The feelings evoked by Stonehouse's photo have inspired a number of donations for Schoep's costly medical treatment.

And while the treatment may improve Schoep's quality of life in his final days, it's likely the love involved in Unger's method that will go the furthest.