The story of this senior dog whose picture touched the hearts of thousands around the world is another example of the power of new technologies. Many famous dogs have walked the path of history alongside prominent figures. Their existence earned a place in the hearts of those who wrote our history and came to influence what we as humans identify ourselves as today.
We believe that the human-canine bond has outlasted the centuries because dogs have always safeguarded the essential values on which friendship and long-lasting relationships are based.
In addition to tales of the hero canines, loyal companions and heartwarming assistance dogs that have left their paws imprinted in the past, we try to capture relevant stories that have inspired real changes in a present day setting and that we can further identify within the context of our modern lives.
After their picture went viral, the life of John Unger and his dog Schoep changed forever. Their tale revolves around one of the purest expressions of human kindness, whose analysis allows for many different approaches and let us appreciate Schoep and John’s story in many ways.
It was the year 2012, at the dawn of social media as we know it today, and Facebook had just reached 1 billion active users. Many perceived social media networks as a new phenomenon limited to vanity and frivolity. People were being suddenly immersed in the world of immediate information and fast-paced lifestyle transformation, and it was expected that the emerging technologies would lead humans to automated behavior and massified thinking.
However, that does not quite describe what John was doing when her friend Hanna took the picture that would treasure that special moment. The cold lake water reduced the dog’s joint pain and he could fall asleep with a peaceful expression, only achievable when someone truly feels in good hands. John wanted to keep that memory forever, aware of the fact that the progressive effects of arthritis could force him to say goodbye to the friend that once saved his life. That rescued dog had once been the only reason that stopped him from committing suicide and the stubborn force that had pulled him out of depression.
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The story was so touching and the picture was so beautiful that the photographer decided to share it on her Facebook page without ever imagining what would eventually come next.
The image of an old dog sleeping, finally relaxing in the arms of his loyal human friend triggered one of the most beautiful and unpredictable reactions on the Internet, something that was unknown at the time… it went viral.
In just hours, the story got thousands and thousands of likes, comments, shares, and mobilized many donors and health professionals to help this man. A large number of individuals joined forces to provide a senior dog suffering from arthritis and cataracts with the most modern and expensive treatments.
John’s commitment to bringing his four-legged friend to the river every day, even if just for a mere instant of relief for Schoep, showed the best part of humankind. The power of his action went through and beyond the screens of those sharing and liking the story, tearing down all expectations and unveiling valuable information for understanding public opinion on core issues.
In a world where we are taught that the cost-benefit equation must be applied to everything, a man is spearing his resources and time to bring his old friend to the river just to ease his pain. In times when our society discusses and accepts euthanasia, John has put all his effort in giving his ill senior dog a longer and happier life.
Schoep and John showed the power of authenticity, which could make an old dog and his friend become social media stars and get more exposure than many celebrities with their dubious endorsements.
Thousands of people choosing to put all available resources together just to ease the pain of a senior dog was not a good outcome for campaigners trying to sell the idea that it is public consensus that ending a life is an acceptable treatment.
As in the case of Patrick’s law, Star, and many others, Schoep’s pictures unveiled a new way of activism that started brewing and, even today, is fuelling debates. Technology and digital media more specifically were starting to being perceived as a new and efficient tool for people to express their individual views.
This was a game changer in terms of information and power shifting from mass media and concentrate authority to plural voices and a more democratic exercise of power. A tool for turning ideas and opinions into collective actions where ordinary individuals are the protagonists can quickly produce changes, implement solutions, and why not also turn those involved into stars in just hours.
Schoep passed away after celebrating his twentieth birthday with thousands of people who followed their Facebook page, proving that love and care help live a longer life.
Until stories like Schoep’s happened, nobody was conscious about the power of human values and their influence in the technological context of social media. It allowed many people to realize that anything can be achieved when millions click a button guided by their own values and principles. It also revealed what truly matters to people, which includes ensuring that all resources are made available to help an ill, senior dog gets the right treatment, independent of cost, to live a healthier, longer, pain-free life.