BAYFIELD, Wis.- Is it possible to love again? John Unger is about to find out.
Schoep loved the water but arthritis settled into his joints which made it hard to swim or even walk. So, Unger would just hold Schoep on his chest in the water, sometimes for hours.
"He was my life," Unger said.
Twenty years ago Unger was battling depression when he found Schoep in a shelter.
"He saved me that night and I could only do my very best for him after that," he said.
It was the best to the very end. A year and a half ago, Schoep passed away.
"It was really tough after Schoep left and didn't know what to do with my time," Unger said.
Months passed. The thought of moving on came and went. Unger thought about getting a new dog but nothing seemed right.
"It was re-learning how to live and once I learned that and once I got through the toughness of his love that's when I started searching again," Unger said.
Ninety miles away in Hayward someone else was searching too. A few days ago several dogs were surrendered to the Northwoods Humane Society. Among them was one-year-old Bear. Older dogs and black dogs like Bear often have trouble finding new homes, according to Kim Molitor, who works for the shelter. But a suitor was already at the front door.
"I was like cool. He's like a surfer dude from California. He's going to get along with all the dogs," Molitor said after the long-haired Unger walked in.
Molitor had no idea who the "long-haired surfer dude" was until a co-worker recognized the name.
"I got chills. I couldn't' believe it. He's in the water with the dog and it was beautiful," Molitor said.
Just as beautiful was the moment Unger met Bear.
"It was just unison. It was just you know, in love from the moment they said hello to each other," Molitor said.
In less than a week together Unger and Bear have their walk down. But there are some things they are still learning about each other, like whether Bear likes playing with sticks or a ball.
Starting over is never easy but Unger learned years ago from his first love that it's a chance worth taking.
"I talk to him still. Thank him for everything," Unger said.
If you'd like to send John and Bear a welcome message you can write to them at P.O. Box 434, Bayfield, WI 54814.