An 8-year-old boy, Carter Blanchard of Searcy, Arkansas, who has the skin condition vitiligo isn’t feeling so alone since meeting a dog halfway across the country with the same disorder.
Vitiligo destroys the cells that make pigment in the skin, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Carter was first diagnosed in kindergarten and lost confidence as white patches appeared around his eyes, according to ABC News.
“He was at a big school with a lot of kids, and his face was transforming very quickly,” his mother, Stephanie Adcock, told the network. “The first thing he’d tell me when he got in the car is that he hated his face and hated the way he looked.”
Life was tough for Carter, but help came in the form of Rowdy, a 13-year-old purebred black Labrador retriever in Oregon who was diagnosed with vitiligo the same year as Carter.
When Adcock first found pictures of Rowdy on Facebook, she quickly shared them with her son.
“I read that Rowdy had vitiligo, and I was blown away,” she told KATU.com in Portland. “When I showed Carter, he was so excited to see a dog that was famous for his vitiligo.”
Carter and his mom reached out to Rowdy’s owner, Niki Umbenhower of Canby, Ore., and built a long-distance friendship.
That relationship became closer this past week after KATU viewers donated money to bring Carter and his mom to Canby to meet Rowdy.
Adcock is thrilled the two friends could finally meet.
“It couldn’t be any other person that made him feel better. It had to be Rowdy. It had to be a dog,” she told KATU.com.
Rowdy seemed to return the feelings, Adcock said.
“When we walked in, I didn’t feel like we were walking in for the very first time. They were family already,” she told ABC News. “You could tell Rowdy knew something was going on and felt the energy of the room.”
Umbenhower told the network that Carter hugged and petted Rowdy for two hours that first meeting, “and they’ve been together ever since.”
But Carter jokes that not everything is perfect with his canine friend.
“He needs some more [spots] on his back,” he told KATU.com.
Sadly, Rowdy suffered a seizure this weekend and doctors say more tests are needed to determine the cause. A GoFundMe account has been set up to cover the unexpected expenses.