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Man Who Held Dog in Viral Lake Superior Photo Gets New Pup

John Unger welcomes a new dog two years after his beloved Schoep passed away. Say hi to Bear!

Michael Leaverton  |  Feb 26th 2015


In 2012, the photo of John Unger holding Schoep in Lake Superior to relieve his dog’s chronic arthritis captivated the world, instantly going viral. As we wrote at the time, “When John learned that his canine companion had developed severe arthritis and might not have much longer to live, John turned to water therapy to help his friend. The warm summer temperatures of Lake Superior and the weightlessness of the water were the perfect combination to help Schoep relax.”

The iconic image is thanks to Hannah Stonehouse Hudson of Stonehouse Photography, who snapped a few photos of the pair and posted them to Facebook. The public’s reaction delighted Unger. “To see that this photo has lifted their spirits … that right there lifts mine even higher,” he wrote.

Schoep passed away in 2013, at age 20, and an anguished public received the news on the Schoep and John Facebook page the following day, with Unger writing, “I breathe but I can’t catch my breath … Schoep passed yesterday … more information in the days ahead.”

In the months after, Unger adjusted to life without his friend.

“It was really tough after Schoep left, and [I] didn’t know what to do with my time,” Unger told USA Today. “It was re-learning how to live, and once I learned that, and once I got through the toughness of his love, that’s when I started searching again.

The search is now over. Unger has a new dog — one-year-old Bear, who just a few days ago was surrendered to the Northwoods Humane Society in Wyoming, Minnesota. Shelter worker Kim Molitor said the two were a match from the get-go.

“It was just unison. It was just, you know, in love from the moment they said hello to each other,” Molitor told USA Today.

Unger told his Facebook fans about Bear Monday night with a heartfelt entry:

I am whole again… Ladies and Gentlemen — This Is BEAR! The journey continues with the addition of Bear into my home, heart, soul and OUR lives! Please give him a Big Hello! Bear is a 1-year-old, 70-pound Akita/Shep/Lab mix. I am a very happy man, and proud to introduce him to you. Please join us as Bear and I learn, grow and help in the days, months and years to come! Great Days Ahead To All. John.

And here is Bear:

And it looks like that photo is going viral, too, with more than 70,000 likes and 17,000 comments.

As for Schoep, Unger says he has hardly forgotten the bond they shared.

“I talk to him still,” he said. “I thank him for everything.”

Via USA Today

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