It is an image of total and complete calm. Schoep, a 19-year-old shepherd mix and his human, John Unger, float in the waters of Lake Superior, Scheop's head resting gently on Unger's shoulder. The picture is pretty great, but it is the story behind the picture that will bring tears to your eyes.
Unger rescued Schoep when he was just a puppy. For years now, the two have done everything together. Now, Schoep's aging joints are plagued by arthritis, and Unger says he finds the water comforts the dog's aching limbs.
One of Unger's friends, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, insisted on taking pictures of the special relationship between this man and his dog. Hudson, a professional photographer, accompanied the pair to the lake and snapped away as Unger and Schoep slipped into the warm water. Hudson knew the photos were special, but she didn't know how special until she posted one of them on Facebook.
"This 19-year-old (dog is) being cradled in his father's arms last night in Lake Superior," she wrote. "Schoep falls asleep every night when he is carried into the lake. The buoyancy of the water soothes his arthritic bones. Lake Superior is very warm right now, so the temperature of the water is perfect. I was so happy I got to capture this moment for John. By the way, John rescued Schoep as an 8-month-old puppy, and he's been by his side through many adventures :)."
In the next few days, the picture went viral, getting hundreds of thousands of shares and millions of views. Moved by the impact of the photo, Hudson is now selling prints of the image on her website, and says she is going to use part of the proceeds to alleviate Schoep's veterinary bills.
"In this photo, people have said they see everything from pure love to hope for the world," Hudson says. "They see peace, kindness, the relationship between man and dog."