The arthritic dog whose owner was pictured lulling him through the pain in a lake reached the incredible age of 20 in spite of his illness.
Owner John Unger posted a new photo of the German shepherd chowing down on a festive birthday cake in celebration.
The story of loyal dog Shoep became an international sensation when the picture of Unger wading in Lake Superior with him was viewed by millions last year.
The big 2-0: Shoep celebrated his second decade on June 15, surpassing medical expectations
Global fans: After an image of Schoep being soothed by his owner went viral, he gained a cult following
Since then, their story has served as the inspiration for a charity called the Schoep Legacy Foundation which has raised more than $25,000 to help low-income families care for their aging dogs thanks to donations from people as far away as Saudi Arabia and Japan, all inspired by the gorgeous image.
Mr Unger’s good friend Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, who is a professional photographer, captured the heartbreaking moment between the man and his aging rescue dog in Wisconsin when Mr Unger thought his best friend was at the end of his life.
But thanks to the generosity of strangers, Schoep has been receiving top-notch care and is wagging his tail more than ever before, allowing Mr Unger and his dog more time together.
A touching photo of John Unger and his former dog Schoep shot in Lake Superior reached millions of Internet users in 2012
Giving: The Schoep Legacy Foundation has raised more than $25,000 to help low-income families care for their aging dogs thanks to donations from people as far away as Saudi Arabia and Japan
‘Schoep is doing incredible right now,’ Mr Unger said to MailOnline. ‘The therapies that the people have donated – it’s like turning back the clock a year and a half.’
Dr Erik Haukass, Schoep’s veterinarian, said that the dog is doing very well and that they are optimistic the treatments will allow Mr Unger and Schoep many more months- with the dog’s 20th birthday clearly surpassing earlier medical predictions.
‘Without treatment, John and I were talking about euthanasia at the end of July,’ Dr Haukass said.
He was on the front line when the donations to Schoep’s care came in, shocked by their magnitude.
‘I’ve never seen anything like this before,’ he said. ‘We realized we had received more money than we would reasonably spend on Schoep’s care.’
Dip: Thanks to the generosity of strangers, Schoep received top-notch care in the last few weeks of his life
Together: Dr Erik Haukass, Schoep’s veterinarian, said that the 19-year-old dog is doing very well and that they are optimistic the treatments will allow Mr Unger and Schoep many more months
Owner Mr Unger, photographer Mrs Hudson, and veterinarian Dr Haukass formed Schoep’s Legacy Foundation
Together with Mr Unger and Mrs Hudson, the three formed Schoep’s Legacy Foundation.
‘The idea is to pay it forward; give it to other organizations, to help out other animals in the area and use the money in the spirit it was given,’ Dr Haukass said.
The elderly dog that touched millions of hearts around the world has died aged 20
The $25,000 will be used in a variety of ways to help low-income families care for their animals, both in the care of older pets and the spaying and neutering of new pets.
‘It could help another 30 or 40 Schoeps,’ Dr Haukass said.
‘It’s incredible to be in a position to help others,’ Mr Unger said.
But beyond helping other animals, Mr Unger said that he’s found himself counseling people who have had to deal with a devastating loss in their lives.
Along with donations, people have been sending Mr Unger their personal stories of woe.
‘They’re going through some depression of their own. They’re very deep and emotional letters. Those are the ones that hit home a lot,’ Mr Unger said.
‘But they look at the picture that Hannah took and it helps them have a better time with it. That’s pretty extraordinary.’
Mr Unger knows first handaout love and loss.
He and his ex-fiancée adopted Schoep 19 years ago, but when the relationship ended, Mr Unger was on the brink of suicide.
‘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.