Schoep, the arthritic German shepherd known across the Internet for an online photo that showed him floating calmly in a lake in the arms of owner John Ungerin, has died. He was 20.
Late Thursday Unger posted on his Facebook page a footprint in the sand of his beloved dog, while writing underneath: "I Breathe But I Can't Catch My Breath... Schoep passed yesterday. More information in the days ahead."
The Facebook page "Schoep and John" has more than 198,000 likes. The footprint photo alone garnered more than 31,000 likes, 20,000 shares and 57,000 comments on Facebook.
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The photo of Schoep, with his eyes closed and aged, white whiskered face tucked below his owner’s chin, was taken last July by Unger’s friend and photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson.
At the time, Unger feared he was losing his best friend and wanted a photo that captured the special bond they shared.
The touching image was shared on Facebook on Aug. 1 by Hudson.
The photo almost immediately captivated tens of thousands of animal lovers who proceeded to share the picture throughout various social media websites for the next year.
Unger would visit Lake Superior with Schoep where the dog would alleviate the pressure he felt on his arthritic joints through floating in the water.
In addition to pulling at the heart strings of animal lovers who saw it, the image also led to numerous donations for Schoep, allowing Unger to afford treatments to improved the dog’s condition.
"As best as I can guess, the treatments have turned back the clock on his life about a year-and-a-half to two years, " Unger told TODAY.com
in September 2012. "I’ve taken him for walks on trails that we haven’t been on in three years. He’s not dragging his back legs like he was before. To be able to do that again with him, words can’t even describe the feeling."
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As recently as this past Monday, Unger posted an image of Schoep on Facebook sleeping amidst bright yellow flowers.
Underneath the image, Unger wrote: "A fantastic day we had. Up early to walk and go to the beach, eat, nap, go shopping, eat, laundry, go to the beach, eat, nap and one more walk. All without the humidity, that’s what made it fantastic — especially for Schoep!"
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