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As he tells it, John Unger's dog saved his life. Several years ago, after separating from his fiancé, he started to experience depression and began having thoughts of suicide.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t have Schoep with me,” Unger told the Duluth News Tribune. “He just snapped me out of it. I don’t know how to explain it."
Now he's trying to give something back by making 19-year-old Schoep's final days as comfortable as possible.
In a photo is touching hearts everywhere, Unger is shown floating in the water cradling his sleeping dog - who suffers from arthritis and hip dysplasia.
“Schoep falls asleep every night when he is carried into the lake," said Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, a photographer and friend of Unger's who snapped the shot. “The buoyancy of the water soothes his arthritic bones. Lake Superior is very warm right now, so the temperature of the water is perfect.”
Unger adopted the pup when he was just 8-months-old, and he's "been by his side through many adventures." The shepherd mix is named after a brand of ice cream that’s popular in southern Wisconsin (Schoep likes vanilla).
The image of the pair's loving relationship has gone viral - drawing the attentions of thousands of people since Hudson posted the photo on Facebook last week. So far it has received more than 330,000 likes and 200,000 shares.
And even better news for Schoep and Unger - Minnesota Public Radio reports that the story has spurred an outpouring of support in the form of donations to help pay for laser treatment for Schoep's arthritis.