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Dog pictured floating to sleep in owner's arms has died

9:29 PM, Jul 19, 2013   |    comments
This photo of John Unger and Schoep quickly circulated around the world (Image: StonehousePhoto.com)
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(TODAY.com) -- Schoep, the arthritic dog who became an Internet sensation last summer when he was photographed floating peacefully in Lake Superior in his owner's arms, has passed away.

The 20-year-old dog's owner, John Unger, announced the death of his best friend on Facebook on Thursday evening.

"I Breathe But I Can't Catch My Breath..." Unger wrote. "Schoep passed yesterday. More information in the days ahead."

The bond between Schoep and Unger captivated tens of thousands of animal lovers when their photo and story began circulating nearly a year ago. Last July, Unger feared that he was mere days from needing to put then-19-year-old Schoep down. In anticipation of his loss, he asked a friend to take one last photo of them together.

That friend, photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, met them at Lake Superior, where Unger liked to help Schoep float to take pressure off his arthritic joints. She captured a photo of the two of them in the lake and posted it on her Facebook page on Aug. 1.

That image ricocheted around the world and resulted in an outpouring of online donations and support. The help Unger received allowed him to afford treatments to alleviate his dog's condition.

"As best as I can guess, the treatments have turned back the clock on his life about a year-and-a-half to two years," Unger told TODAY.com in September 2012. "I've taken him for walks on trails that we haven't been on in three years. He's not dragging his back legs like he was before. To be able to do that again with him, words can't even describe the feeling."

Just this Monday, Unger posted a happy update about Schoep on Facebook along with a photo of the shepherd mix falling asleep in the sunshine, surrounded by bright yellow flowers:

"A fantastic day we had. Up early to walk and go to the beach, eat, nap, go shopping, eat, laundry, go to the beach, eat, nap and one more walk. All without the humidity, that's what made it fantastic - especially for Schoep!"

Stonehouse Hudson, the photographer who made Schoep and Unger famous, posted this on her Facebook page on Thursday night:

"RIP Schoep. He had an amazing life and touched us all. Please keep John in your thoughts."

Laura T. Coffey, TODAY

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