A dog from Oregon and a little boy from Arkansas who share a rare skin disorder are hoping to meet in real life.
Rowdy, a lab who lives with his owners in Canby, Ore., was born with all black fur. Three years ago, his owners noticed white spots throughout his body.
“Around the age of 11, he started to get just a little white. I didn't think anything of it, I just thought he was getting old,” Rowdy’s owner Niki Umbenhower said.
It turned out they aren’t just cute spots. Rowdy has a rare skin disorder called Vitiligo.
“The skin will develop a patch of pink or white, but it will lighten the skin in that area,” Umbenhower said.
More than 2,000 miles away in Searcy, Arkansas, a young boy named Carter Blanchard was diagnosed with the same condition.
“Carter was diagnosed and got Vitiligo the exact same month and year that rowdy did,” Carter’s mom Stephanie Adcock said.
She said her son struggled on a daily basis with every new spot that appeared on his face.
“I used to pick up Carter from school from kindergarten and first grade, and the first thing he would say is that he hates his face and hates his skin,” Adcock said.
Then, Adcock found pictures of Rowdy on Facebook.
“I read that Rowdy had Vitiligo and I was blown away, and when I showed Carter he was so excited to see a dog that was famous for his Vitiligo,” Adcock said.
Carter, 8, and Rowdy, 13, have kept a close digital friendship for years.
“Carter, what do you think about meeting Rowdy in person?” Umbenhower asked.
“It gets me really excited!” Carter said.
Stephanie says the meeting would be unforgettable.
“[Rowdy] really changed the way he saw his own skin. It wasn't a problem anymore. So ever since then, we have been keeping in touch,” Adock said.
As Rowdy ages, Umbenhower and Adcock realize time is of the essence.
“He’s almost 14, he will be 14 in May... I feel like he has so much more work to do, but his health is definitely more of a senior dog,” Umbenhower said.
Across the miles and the years, the two have tackled vitiligo together.
“You just got a new spot! Can you show me where it’s at?” Umbenhower asked.
“Right here on my cheek!” Carter said.
Rowdy got a new spot too.
The two connected through spots and in life, hoping for a chance to meet.
“Rowdy is our four legged hero,” Stephanie said.
The two families are working to raise enough money to fly Carter to Oregon to meet Rowdy.
If you want to help, a GoFundMe is now set up. Umbenhower also hopes to bring other kids like Carter to meet Rowdy while they still can.