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Internet-famous dog turns 20

Schoep, who along with owner John Unger of Bayfield, Wis., was featured in an August 2012 photo that drew widespread acclaim online, is seen in June 2013 with some of the hundreds of cards wishing him well for his 20th birthday, which is June 15, 2013. (Photo courtesy of John Unger)

By John Lundy

Forum News Service

BAYFIELD, Wis. -- The region’s most famous dog quietly turned 20 on Saturday.

Or at least he’s observing the day as quietly as a dog who gets a thousand cards can.

“I don’t want to tax him out too much,” said John Unger of Bayfield, owner of the geriatric shepherd mix named Schoep. “He’s pretty much in the driver’s seat.”

Unger and Schoep became Internet celebrities last summer because of Bayfield photographer Hannah Hudson’s tender photograph of the pair in the waters of Lake Superior. Hudson took the photo July 30 and posted it the next evening on her Facebook page. Within four days it had 1.8 million views.

Gifts and monetary support poured in for Unger, who lives on a Bayfield County fruit farm. That enabled Unger to get the veterinary care needed for Schoep, who is arthritic, blind and hard of hearing.

Schoep has good days and bad days, but his medical condition has basically stayed the same, Unger said. He’s a cold-weather dog, so he enjoyed the winter.

His fan base hasn’t diminished. A “happy birthday” post on the Schoep and John Facebook page had well over 30,000 likes within six hours after it appeared Saturday. More than 1,000 birthday cards had come in the mail, Unger said, along with 25 gifts, including a watercolor of Schoep adapted from a Facebook photo.

They’ll soon have a change of address. Unger has taken a handyman job at the Bayfield Inn and is moving to town. He and Schoep will live across the street from a park and just a few blocks away from Lake Superior and its cooling breezes.

Unger was tentatively planning to go for a dip in the lake with Schoep later Saturday. “It’s pretty darn cold right now, but I sure would love to do it for him,” Unger said.

He already had purchased freshly caught whitefish from Bodin Fisheries in Bayfield and planned to prepare at least a half-filet for Schoep later, and to share a vanilla ice cream cone with him.

Forum News Service

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