When Wisconsin man John Unger endured the death of Schoep, his beloved dog of 20 years, he wasn't sure he would emotionally be able to adopt another dog again.
The pair's beautiful friendship went viral in 2012, when a photo of Unger holding Schoep in Lake Superior to help ease the dog's arthritis pain melted hearts around the world.
Now, a year and a half after Schoep's death, Unger has some good news: He recently adopted another rescue dog, a 1-year-old named Bear.
"It was really tough after Schoep left,'' Unger told NBC Minneapolis affiliate KARE. "I didn't know what to do with my time. I was re-learning how to live and once I learned that, and once I got through the toughness of his loss, that's when I started searching again."
Unger still has plenty of reminders of Schoep, a shepherd mix, as his home in Bayfield, Wisconsin, is filled with boxes of letters from strangers touched by the photo and even a watercolor painting of the two by a stranger. Unger adopted Schoep as a rescue dog with his then-fiancée 20 years ago before the relationship ended and Unger took custody of the dog during a difficult period in his life. He admitted to having contemplated suicide one night when the two were out in Lake Superior, before looking at Schoep and changing his mind.
"He saved me that night, and I could only do my very best for him after that,'' Unger said. "I talk to him still (and) thank him for everything."
Schoep died in July of 2013, and Bear is the first pet Unger has owned since. He found Bear at Northwoods Humane Society in Wyoming, Minnesota, about 90 miles from his home. Just like Schoep, Bear loves the outdoors and has become a close companion to Unger after only a week since being adopted.
"It was just unison,'' Northwoods Humane Society's Kim Molitor told KARE. "They were just in love from the moment they said hello to each other."