Schoep, the Arthritic Dog Made Famous in Viral Photo, Dies at Age 20

The image, which was posted to Facebook last August, helped raise money for the elderly dog's veterinary bills

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Hannah Stonehouse Hudson

Animals can become viral stars for any number of reasons: a hilariously grumpy face, an exquisite fashion sense or even just a ridiculous amount of cuteness. But Schoep, the German Shepherd mix who just died at age 20 on Wednesday, owed his internet fame to a photograph taken last summer.

(MORE: Elton, the ‘Gay’ Shelter Dog, Is Adopted, and the Internet Breathes a Sigh of Relief)

The original image, captured by photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, featured the dog and his owner, John Unger, sharing a peaceful moment in Lake Superior. As the Pioneer Press reports, Unger, of Bayfield, Wisc., began taking his then 19-year-old pet into the water to help soothe the dog’s joint pain from arthritis. The buoyancy of the water, he found, helped lull Schoep to sleep. Unger’s friend Hudson, who wanted to capture the pair’s relationship, snapped the now-famous photo one evening and posted it on Facebook. The touching image soon swept across the web, turning Schoep into a canine celebrity. The original photo has been shared more than 214,000 times over the past year and helped raise funds for the elderly dog’s care. Animal lovers from across the globe donated more than $25,000 to cover veterinary bills, laser eye treatments and medications not just for Schoep, but for other aging dogs from low-income families in need of special care as well.

But unfortunately, just a month after celebrating his 20th birthday, Schoep has passed away, as Unger announced in a Facebook post Thursday. It simply reads:

I Breathe But I Can’t Catch My Breath…

Schoep passed yesterday

more information in the days ahead

More than 65,000 people have already commented on the Facebook post, sharing their messages of condolence.

MORE: ‘Miracle Dog’ Survives Gas Chamber, Now Up for Adoption in NJ

110 comments
Jenoelle2011
Jenoelle2011

Sending my condolences to Mr. Unger! I am so happy that you have had so many amazing years and memories you made with Schoep!

MinervaDafne
MinervaDafne

I totally agree with Mr Frederick Wright's opinion. Thanks!

FrederickWright
FrederickWright

this man gets my vote for time mag, man of the year!!

jdherrera45
jdherrera45

Let us learn from this story, if we can live in peace and love and take care of our pets, why can't we live in peace and love and care for our fellow humans? Dogs give us an eternal love, unbreakable loyalty and accept us the way we are, why can't we do the same with others? All dogs go to heaven, Schoep is already there, waiting for us. John, my greatest respect to you for taking care of him all his life. You deserve a reward. And you have it from all of us, who love dogs.  

Alvin691
Alvin691

The things we learn from our furry friends help us deal with our human ones.

zephyrsaerie
zephyrsaerie

All we love stays with us--achieving a brief immortality until we, too. are gone. Schoep with stay with John as my friends, hounds, cats and horse remain with me. Such a joy that John loved Schoep so well...

syzygysb
syzygysb

Far too many people let their dogs/cats "die by the inch."  I oppose this selfishness and hope that others will see this for what it is.  The photo is touching, the sentiment tugs at one's heart strings. However,  the fact of the matter is that a truly loving dog/cat owner will not allow their pet to suffer.  I completely agree with GlenDeGelnor----owners need to cater more to the pets' needs, steel themselves for the loss,  and be aware of when it is time to let go.

GlenDeGelnor
GlenDeGelnor

Very commendable however, how long has this dog suffered? I've had 5 labs all under 12 that suffered terribly. I never waited more than a day to put them down.

LauraHanrahan
LauraHanrahan

I'm sitting in my office with tears streaming down my face.  RIP Schoep.  What a wonderful man he had to take such good care of him.  

DeniseWard
DeniseWard

I will admit, this is the first I've heard of this story. A friend just posted this in Facebook. I am sitting on my couch crying looking at the picture of poor Schoep in the water :(  He's so relaxed as the water calms and cools his body as he ages. The love these animals give us is unconditional. You're a great owner, John. God bless you.

FedericoGhislainBourdon
FedericoGhislainBourdon

SCHOEP!!!! MURIO!!! UN ANGEL MAS AL CIELO, UNA ESTRELLA MAS QUE BRILLARA EN EL FIRMAMENTO SIN ESPERAR MAS QUE EL RECUERDO DE UN SER AMADO POR SU DUEÑO !!! ESA ES LA RELACION DESEADA !!! PERRO AMIGO HOMBRE AMIGO PERRO....

Melliemel
Melliemel

True grace and beauty. My heart just broke when I read about this. God bless Schoep and John.

lexyb39
lexyb39

 This man cared for his dog for 20 years. He must have taken extraordinary care of the dog for it to live 20 years. My tears are for the 20 years of joy. Bless you John and Schoep. 

lizzy10
lizzy10

Pet owners get it. They are our companions, our protectors, our friends. This photo just makes me miss my old girl even more.

FernandoFidalgo
FernandoFidalgo

This photo does more for me than any Mona Lisa ever will. RIP friend.

billraa
billraa

RIP Schoep.  The world would be a better place if everyone was the person their dog thinks they are.

LindaZampardi
LindaZampardi

what a  beautiful photo of John Unger and his dog.  there is so much love captured in this picture.  this is the kind of photos that should be captured for magazine covers for all to see --not like that disgraceful picture on the cover of  rolling stone magazine;

Rembrandt
Rembrandt

Man domesticated certain willing wolves who became the devoted pets we know today.  Searching for lost children, bringing comfort to the sick and aged,  alerting families to danger.  All without expectation of anything but man's company.  We made them what they have become.  We owe them.

AlbertWilson
AlbertWilson

Mr. Unger is pure inspiration to pet guardians like me. Thank you Mr. Unger and thanks to Schoep too.

mporterd@yahoo.com
mporterd@yahoo.com

Nothing is more passionate that the unconditional love our animals bestow upon us.

kaoly13
kaoly13

This is a beautiful story of the love between a man and his dog who stayed by him through the inevitable ups and downs of life.  My heart breaks for John and, as someone else said on this site - if you know the love and loss of a dear pet you know how painful this is!  My prayers go out to him.

kaoly13
kaoly13

Agree who cares about you "CardonNeeley"?  Wow, go post somewhere else.

CardonNeeley
CardonNeeley

Who cares?  It's a dog.  Go to the pound and get another one.

JessicaCleveland
JessicaCleveland

This really hits home.  I remember this image and thought it was soo beautiful when I first saw it (still do).  It reminded me of our dog, Kennedy, who is also a German shepherd mix and 14 years old and has had a terrible time with arthritis in her hips. We had to put her to sleep on Tuesday due to illness and pain.  Hearing Schoep has also passed is so sad.  It's amazing the love our pets bring to our lives but it's so heartbreaking when they leave us.

jeanieclare
jeanieclare

Rainbow Bridge

There is a bridge connecting heaven and earth
It is called Rainbow Bridge because of its many colours

Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows,
hills, valleys with lush green grass

When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this special place
There is always food and water and warm spring weather

The old and frail are young again
Those who are maimed are made whole again

They play all day with each other
There is only one thing missing

They are not with their special person who loved them on Earth
So each day they run and play until the day comes
when one suddenly stops playing and looks up !

The nose twitches !
The ears are up !
The eyes are staring !
And this one suddenly runs from the group !

You have been seen, and when you and your special friend meet,
you take him or her into your arms and embrace
your face is kissed again and again,
and you look once more into the eyes of your trusting pet

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated

Author Unknown

www.petloss.co.uk

blueyedblond9
blueyedblond9

My husband and I have fostered over 60 dogs during the last 15 years . . until they could find a forever home. Those that were "unadoptable" because of medical conditions, advanced age, breed prejudice, or because they'd just been too badly treated by humans and had fears that most people wouldn't have the patience and love to help them work thru . . we kept and loved them until they left this earth that had too often cast them aside as so much garbage. We've 23 buried in our doggie graveyard and we have 13 we currently love and provide for . . . people think we're weird and stupid for expending our time and resources for "dogs" . . but we expend our time and resources for the 2-legged that are in need as well. Five of our current herd are certified Therapy dogs, visiting hospitals, nursing homes and schools. We, and they, are also Hospice volunteers. Dog is 'God" spelled backward . . . don't think that's a coincidence. We firmly believe we are here to serve Him thru serving others and it's an honor to be able to utilize His creatures as part of that process. Our thoughts are with John as he mourns the loss of his beloved friend.

PatrishDehler
PatrishDehler

That is a very touching photo.  As long as a dog in comfortable and not in pain, they deserve to live a long and loving life.  But times people hang on to their pets, even when the pets are suffering.  Pet owners know they have to let them go sometime, but still it is hard.

debbie338
debbie338

It's especially touching that the excess funds were used to help dogs that otherwise would not have been helped. Thank you! 

reggiesmith
reggiesmith

This just in... it has been revealed that the dog in question did vote in the last presidential election as there was no ID requested at the poll it attended.  And yes, the canine did vote Democrat.   We'll now return you to the article.

sleepless
sleepless

@GlenDeGelnor The dog was arthritic.  There are many humans walking around arthritic and you don't see them running off to their doctors office begging to be put down.  Arthritis can be tolerated with the proper medical management and care.  It appears that John provided excellent medical care, as well as any other types of care that seemed to help ease the dogs arthritic pain, and provided the dog with much love and friendship.  How dare you criticize this man.  Never-mind the fact that dogs don't go from being fine one day to suffering terribly the next, and yes I have owned a lab before.

GlenDeGelnor
GlenDeGelnor

@FernandoFidalgo I know what you mean. Us humans keep buying pets that were going to mourn someday and I'll most likely continue. Maybe I should get a turtle or a parrot.

YAJVEK
YAJVEK

@LindaZampardi Bless John for taking care of the dog especially when he was so sick, we also should bring the attention of the public to countries like Vietnam that catch dogs and brutally kill them for meat consumptions.       

sleepless
sleepless

It is people like you #CardonNeely that make me like my dogs more than people.

Melliemel
Melliemel

really? What is wrong with you?

AlbertWilson
AlbertWilson

Schoep will be remembered for years to come. You.... probably not so much.

kaoly13
kaoly13

CardonNeeley....get a life!

darrtown
darrtown

@CardonNeeley Who cares? Millions do. Otherwise the picture wouldn't have gone viral. It's too bad that nobody loves you, Cardon. Hopefully you'll grow up and maybe then your attitude will improve.

gobluewc
gobluewc

@CardonNeeley Haha, the same could be said about your pathetic life. More people care about this dog's life than yours. 

dannyboi
dannyboi

@blueyedblond9Some may think you're weird, but know that you are angels on earth, caring for God's creations.


kaoly13
kaoly13

Are you from planet Earth Reggiesmith?

debbie338
debbie338

@reggiesmith There's always some loser who has to use touching little stories to further a political agenda. 

PaulPrice
PaulPrice

I would love to see proof of that lie!

Why would you post an idiotic statement like that in a story about a man and his dog who obviously had a tremendous relationship.

You are one sick individual, Reggie, very sick, and disgusting!

JohnLittle
JohnLittle

For those who did not understand what I posted....

I do care.......