For any Facebook user, it’s not uncommon to receive weekly requests to sign online petitions because someone has been wronged. Such petitions try to raise awareness, highlight legislative loopholes and pressure lawmakers to sponsor a fix, or raise funds to help survivors and cover medical bills.
This week, I was notified of a woman’s brother who was tazered and later died in a movie theatre because he didn’t understand he needed to leave after the film ended. Apparently, no one in the establishment or on the police force was trained to address people with special needs, even tho’ this young man frequented this movie theatre weekly. I also learned of an Illinois man who skipped his annual pedophile registration last year and was just arrested for raping a puppy in his girlfriend’s home.
Causes.com is one vehicle for citizens to organize grassroots campaigns to raise awareness, collect signatures and dollars online. According to Facebook information, it was one of the original Facebook apps. Causes.com is a for-profit business; it collects 4% off of each charitable donation, according to its website information. But it does work with nonprofit organizations.
Well, one current petition lighting up Facebook does not have its roots based in tragedy. It is promoting a good cause – one that is sure to raise awareness about animal adoption and animal advocacy – but it also honors those who are simply pet parents.
Remember John Unger? He and his precious dog, Schoep were featured in the photo that went viral in fall 2012. Photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson captured Unger and Schoep floating in Lake Superior – Schoep completely relaxed and floating in Urger’s arms, finding relief in the cool lake waters near Reiten Beach for his arthritic old dog bones.
The response to Hannah’s photo, which she posted on her Stonehouse Photography Facebook page, was tremendous. First friends shared, then local media picked up the thread, then CNN, then even shows like DoctorsTV aired an interview with Schoep and John. Within 5 days, Hudson told the Duluth News Tribune, the photo had been viewed 1.8 million times, she wrote.
As Schoep and John launched a Facebook page, with so many “friends” and “followers,” they quickly claimed “Public Figure” status. Donations poured in and Unger was able to take Schoep for laser treatments that eased his pain and likely lengthened his life, according to Unger.
And we watched and read, thanks to Unger’s regular posts, complete with photos and videos. Each post gaining upwards of 30,000 “likes” or comments. Schoep was adopted at age eight months, an abused puppy who required a little bit of patience and a lot of love to heal.
When Schoep passed July 18, 2013, we mourned – grieving and crying with this dog owner, who lost his companion of 20 years. "Our last day together was perfect," Unger told KDLH News. Unger held him to end. Best friends forever.
Unger continues to post updates, pondering a Schoep commemorative concert in Bayfield, Wisconsin in spring 2014, to gather everyone who cheered on Schoep and in thanks for their support. He since has established the Schoep Legacy Foundation (johnandschoep.com) for other owners with elder dogs to support the laser treatments at Bay Area Animal Hospital in Ashland, Wisconsin.
"It's our turn to give back," Unger told Yahoo! News.
Now, readers want to do more for their adopted Facebook family. While donations, cards and greetings poured in and Schoep even was honored into the Pet Hall of Fame by the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association in March 2012, a Causes petition is seeking to nominate Unger as Person of the Year for Time magazine’s annual Dec. 31 edition.
The idea of Time magazine choosing a Man of the Year began in 1927 with editors debating newsworthy stories in a slow news week. Since then, individual people, classes of people, the computer (1982), and Planet Earth (1988) all have been selected for this year-end edition. In 1999, the title switched to Person of the Year. Yet, the only women named individually have been "The Whistleblowers" (Cynthia Cooper, Coleen Rowley, and Sherron Watkins in 2002) and Melinda Gates (jointly with Bill Gates and Bono in 2005).
Before that, four women were granted the title as individuals as Woman of the Year: Wallis Simpson in 1936, Soong May-ling (Madame Chiang Kai-shek) in 1937, Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, and Corazon Aquino in 1986.
Despite the editors’ comments statements to the contrary, the designation often is viewed as an honor and spoken of as an award. But Time editors point out controversial figures such as Adolf Hitler (1938), Joseph Stalin (1939, 1942), Nikita Khrushchev (1957), and Ayatollah Khomeini (1979) also have received the title.
Supporters of Unger’s nomination (write: firstname.lastname@example.org) say it’s time to honor a person for their positive contribution to society – a contribution not born out of celebrity or dollars. In days when disagreement leads to dysfunction, society could benefit from honoring so basic a story as the love between a rescued dog and his companion, supporters write on Facebook.
Dear TIME Magazine,
We the undersigned would be thrilled to see MR JOHN UNGER grace your cover and be awarded the title of PERSON OF THE YEAR.
WHY – well the picture and story of John and his amazing relationship with his beautiful dog called Schoep says it all – doesn't it?
Orange for Animal Cruelty Awareness
Causes.com is the world’s largest online campaigning platform. Causes members have raised more than $48 million for nonprofits, collected 34 million signatures for grassroots campaigns, and organized thousands of awareness campaigns. Since launching in 2007, Causes has helped more than 186 million people in 156 countries join with a cause.