A beautiful story that depicts the dedication and enduring friendship between one Wisconsin man and his faithful four-legged adopted companion.
19 years ago, John Unger and his fiancé at the time were in the market for a new family companion. After searching for weeks, scavenging all of the shelters and having no gratifying connection to any of the dogs, it was then that Unger and his fiancé found an 8 month old puppy. Sweet, shy and assumed to have been formally mistreated, Schroep was chosen to be their new baby. The couple chose the pups name to be Schroep, named after a famous brand of Wisconsin ice cream; and sweet he was. John Unger and his fiancé dedicated precious time to Schroep, developing a bond and gaining Schroep’s trust.
It has been fortunate for Schroep to have found a true family; however, it has been over 10 years now since John and his fiancé decided to call off their relationship. John told the paper that one long night, still in the wake of him and his fiancés breakup, that he was contemplating suicide.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t have Schroep with me [that particular 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,” Unger exclaimed.
Today, Schroep is 19 years old and suffers with severe joint pain due to arthritis. With 19 years of companionship & loyalty, John has decided not put his friend to sleep (as recommended) but rather, he is determined to help alleviate Schroep’s pain and give him more days to live, just has Schroep had given him. Unger knew that water therapy is a common remedy for people suffering with arthritis, so John brought his best four-legged friend to one of his favorite spots at Lake Superior.
“Whenever he got into the water he wouldn’t swim and would just put his paws on my shoulders and want to be held. One of these times, all of a sudden, he was asleep. We’ve been doing it periodically since then.” Mr. Unger nostalgically recalled.
This summer in particular, Lake Superior has had warmer temperatures than in the past; Mr. Unger has chosen to take advantage of that and allow Schroep to be held in the warm water, weightless and relaxed. Knowing the veterinarian’s grim prognosis, Unger called his photographer friend, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, and asked her to capture a special memory of John and Schroep.
“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,’ Ms Stonehouse Hudson described to The Pioneer Press.
As of this past Thursday, John Unger has been trying to adjust to all the sudden popularity. Since the photo went viral on Hannah Stonehouse Hudson’s, Stonehouse Photography Facebook page, it has received nearly 300,000 “likes” and 32,000 comments.
“The first four days I was literally in shock,” John told TODAY.com. He said that for the first two days, he was reading every comment that was posted under the photo of him and his best friend.
“I would read about five of them and lose it for a good ten minutes and then come back to it. To see that this photo has lifted their spirits … that right there lifts mine even higher.” said Unger.