Last week a dog named Schoep was inducted into the 2013 Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame.
Not bad for an animal who, as of last fall, had only weeks to live.
John Unger supports his dog Schoep in Lake Superior as a way to ease the pain of Schoep's chronic arthritis. This photo, taken by Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, went viral online, compelling thousands to make donations for the dog's medical care.
Six months ago a photograph of John Unger and his ailing dog Schoep inspired an outpouring of generosity, which to date totals more than $50,000. Today Schoep is alive and well, and those funds are now helping other sick dogs to get help and find new homes.
Initial donations helped to treat Schoep's severe arthritis. With the excess, Unger and friends have founded Schoep's Legacy Foundation. The foundation's mission is to support efforts to improve animal welfare.
While the foundation is still awaiting certification from the IRS, it has already donated money to a number of Bay Area spay and neuter programs which serve low income people of Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It also helped the Chequamegon Humane Association to buy a new van.
But perhaps most interesting of all is "The Cider Project." Based in Northern Wisconsin, it helps local shelters by providing medical and surgical care to pets that need extra help to make them more "adoptable." The program is the brainchild of Dr. Erik Haukaas, Schoep's veterinarian.
For example, a Basset-Beagle named Lumpy had a hernia. The Cider Project paid for his medical work to be done, and he's since found a home.
Dr. Erik Haukaas hangs out with Lumpy
Photo: Hannah Stonehouse Hudson
Another dog, a Pomeranian named Midge, suffered from ovarian tumors, which impeded her ability to walk and caused extensive hair loss on the lower part of her body. After treatment, her gait returned to normal and her hair grew back; she's since been adopted.
Due to all the popularity, Unger and his dog now have their own Facebook page, with more than 106,000 fans who check in regularly to get updates on Schoep's health.
But amid all the great news there is a sad story to report. Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, the photographer who captured Unger and Schoep's loving relationship, recently lost her husband in a tragic ice fishing accident. In a bittersweet twist, the thousands of fans she made with her photograph have become a source of support in her grief.
I had a black lab which I truly loved and was my best friend and I did the same thing in the bath tub as you did w/your dog in lake superior. Iwill never own another dog. It felt like I lost a family member. I love your website thanks John
Oh, John, you're exactly the kind of person who should own another dog. I've lost quite a few dogs over the decades, and each one leaves a space that seems sad and cold at first but over time the memories make it warmer and comforting. They only enrich my life, they don't take away from it, even when they pass. And you know there's a great dog out there waiting for you. Schoep's is a great story, and all the humans involved in the foundation are doing great work.
Lost my dog in 2010, I too will never have
another dog. He was the most special animal.
In my life I have saved six dogs from imminent
death, and that last one was the best. will forever
miss my max. Our bond was truly special.
a always had big dogs
now my frends give me a little puppy
becorse a lost every thing a had in my live
devorst after 36 years marreids
my son dyet 16 months ago he was 28
my other son live in america
so this dog is verry special to me
and a wil give him al my love that a have left