This is a photo of John Unger and his best friend Schoep who suffers from severe arthritis. The water helps relieve some of Schoep’s pain so he can get some rest whenever John brings him here:
This photo was captured by Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, released on Facebook recently and immediately went viral. Since then both the photographer and John Unger have been receiving words of encouragement from all over the world. Veterinarians say that Schoep may need to be put down soon due to his condition, so John has been taking him to the lake more frequently to help him feel better and try to enjoy every moment they have left together.
John started swimming with Schoep here in Lake Superior nearly 13 years ago but for different reasons. It started because Schoep was a terrible swimmer and had been scared of the water. It took him years to gather the courage to retrieve a ball from the water, and much longer for him to actually swim in it.
John adopted Schoep almost 20 years ago with his then-fiancée at the time. They were told that Schoep had been abused by a previous owner so it took a long time for them to earn Schoep’s trust. A few years later John’s relationship broke up but the two still shared custody of Schoep until she moved away for grad school. John then spiraled into a deep depresssion. One particularly difficult night he even considered taking his own life.
“I went out on the breakwater and I was thinking about committing suicide,” he said. “And I was out there for about an hour just thinking about things and it came to the point of me thinking, ‘OK, this is the time.’ And I looked down at Schoep and I don’t know what it was … he had a look like no other time he looked at me. I look back at it now and he knew something was wrong.”
It took that look by Schoep to help bring Unger back from the brink.
“He just snapped me out of that moment … we walked around the rest of the night until dawn.”
The next day he thanked Schoep for saving his life.
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