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John Lundy, Forum Communications, Published August 10 2012

Photo of MN man soothing sore dog in Lake Superior goes viral, help for 19-year-old pooch pours in

BAYFIELD, Wis. – It says something about the joyous frenzy that has arisen around John Unger and his dog, Schoep, this week that Unger and photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson have had to bring in a public relations agent.

“My phone is ringing off the hook,” said Hudson during a phone interview Thursday from the Upper Peninsula, where she was heading for an assignment. “I have 500 unanswered emails at this point.”

Hudson took the shot seen around the world – Unger holding the blissfully slumbering Schoep, his 19-year-old shepherd mix, in the waters of Lake Superior – on July 31 and posted it on her Facebook page on Aug. 1. By Sunday, it had 1.8 million views; the last she checked it was close to 3 million.

The Duluth News Tribune’s story about the picture, which appeared Monday, was only the beginning of a flurry of media attention. Among other outlets, their story has been on the Huffington Post, CNN, Fox News, the Today Show’s blog, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, City Pages in Minneapolis and “a bunch of Croatian TV stations and newspapers,” said Hudson, whose home base is Bayfield.

The unassuming Unger had been interviewed by Duluth and Minneapolis TV stations on Thursday. “It’s generally I’m taking care of the stuff up here and she’s doing the nationals,” Unger said of Hudson. Then he laughed at what he’d just said. “That’s just bizarre.”

Schoep is benefitting from all of the attention. A couple of weeks ago, Unger had taken his dog to Bay Area Animal Hospital in Ashland. He got pain medication for Schoep but couldn’t afford more extensive treatment. But after learning about the dog’s story, anonymous donors made it possible for Schoep to get the supplement glucosamine along with laser treatments to treat his arthritis.

“John is a great guy, but he just doesn’t have any money,” said the veterinarian, Dr. Erik Haukaas. “Schoep is a great dog and everybody has responded to this, and we have received a number of donations. So we are now able to do everything possible for the dog.”

How to help

Call the Bay Area Animal Hospital, Ashland, Wis., at (715) 682-8865, or send a check to Bay Area Animal Hospital, 3601 E. Highway 2, Ashland, WI 54806. Simply write “Schoep” in the memo line.

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John Lundy writes for the Duluth News Tribune