A man and his dog, a photo, and now a foundation

Last week a dog named Schoep was inducted into the 2013 Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame.

Not bad for an animal who, as of last fall, had only weeks to live.

Six months ago a photograph of John Unger and his ailing dog Schoep inspired an outpouring of generosity, which to date totals more than $50,000. Today Schoep is alive and well, and those funds are now helping other sick dogs to get help and find new homes.

Initial donations helped to treat Schoep’s severe arthritis. With the excess, Unger and friends have founded Schoep’s Legacy Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to support efforts to improve animal welfare.

While the foundation is still awaiting certification from the IRS, it has already donated money to a number of Bay Area spay and neuter programs which serve low income people of Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It also helped the Chequamegon Humane Association to buy a new van.

But perhaps most interesting of all is “The Cider Project.” Based in Northern Wisconsin, it helps local shelters by providing medical and surgical care to pets that need extra help to make them more “adoptable.” The program is the brainchild of Dr. Erik Haukaas, Schoep’s veterinarian.

For example, a Basset-Beagle named Lumpy had a hernia. The Cider Project paid for his medical work to be done, and he’s since found a home.

Another dog, a Pomeranian named Midge, suffered from ovarian tumors, which impeded her ability to walk and caused extensive hair loss on the lower part of her body. After treatment, her gait returned to normal and her hair grew back; she’s since been adopted.

Due to all the popularity, Unger and his dog now have their own Facebook page, with more than 106,000 fans who check in regularly to get updates on Schoep’s health.

But amid all the great news there is a sad story to report. Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, the photographer who captured Unger and Schoep’s loving relationship, recently lost her husband in a tragic ice fishing accident. In a bittersweet twist, the thousands of fans she made with her photograph have become a source of support in her grief.