By Chandra Conway, Grey Muzzle VolunteerPhotographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson’s image of John Unger and his dog Schoep relaxing together in Lake Superior has been seen, and felt, around the world. Schoep, a 19-year-old Shepherd mix, has severe arthritis that compromises his mobility. John, who adopted Schoep at the age of eight months, takes Schoep to the lake regularly so he can float, free from aches and pains.
Hannah’s photo captures that freedom as well as the bond between two best friends as one supports the other. The image drew her international attention—more than 2 million people viewed it on Facebook within a week—and after donations secured Schoep’s care for the rest of his life, Hannah suggested her new fans support The Grey Muzzle Organization.Growing up, both of Hannah’s grandmothers were “crazy dog lovers” and her mother made sure there was room for a senior dog in their family’s pack. “We always had that 15-year-old with a $300-a-month drug habit,” she says with a laugh.
Hannah, who regularly takes portraits of shelter dogs and assists her local cash-strapped shelter, enjoyed 18 years with her childhood dog, Tri. That lifetime of love drew her to Schoep and John when she met the pair about six years ago in their small lakeside town of Bayfield, Wisconsin.
But it wasn’t until late July that the friends’ paths aligned at a photo session that’s created an outpouring of appreciation for senior dogs and their caregivers. Upset that her commercial photography commitments kept her from traveling to her grandmother’s funeral, Hannah decided to squeeze in some time for her true passion—capturing the relationships between humans and animals—and headed to the lake to meet Schoep and John.
Her photo has changed all of their lives for the better and has sparked conversations about complementary wellness options for elderly dogs. Thanks to donations, Schoep is receiving weekly laser therapy treatments on his hind legs. Schoep’s mobility has increased, which has lifted his spirits and boosted his energy—all of which is being shared on Schoep and John’s wildly popular Facebook page. “It’s beyond helping Schoep and John, it’s about information now being passed along to other dog owners.”
“Showing a dog being well taken care of is my biggest dream,” shares Hannah. She is “amazed and thankful” for an experience that has been a dream come true.
Photo used with permission of StonehousePhoto.