An 8-year-old Arkansas boy's life was changed when he met a dog that has the same rare skin disorder as he does.
Carter Blanchard has vitiligo, a rare auto-immune condition that causes skin to lose its pigment, resulting in white spots. His mother, Stephanie Adcock, said the effects of the disease first became noticeable when Carter was in kindergarten.
"He would go from room to room in my home looking at every mirror," Adcock wrote in a letter to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, according to KGW. "I remember the day I picked him up from school when he said, 'Mom, I hate my face.' As his mother, it broke my heart that I could not change this situation for him."
Not long ago Adcock came across images of Rowdy, a 14-year-old black Labrador who developed vitiligo in 2014. She contacted Rowdy's owner, Niki Umbenhower, who created a video that featured both Rowdy and Carter.
Carter was thrilled when he saw it.
"He broke out in the biggest smile. 'Me and Rowdy are famous!'" Adcock recalled.
Umbenhower and Adcock decided it would be a good idea for the two to meet face to face, especially because Rowdy's health is declining and he may not be around much longer. But first they had to raise enough money to fly Carter out to Oregon.
Everything came together thanks to an anonymous donation of $5,000, and on March 19 Carter and Rowdy finally met in person. It was a transformative experience for Carter, who joked that his new friend doesn't have quite enough spots.
"He needs some more on his back," he told KATU, adding that the best part of the meeting with Rowdy was "Getting to pet him."
Adcock is grateful for what Rowdy has done for her son.
"Really, it was life-changing for him," Adcock said. "It changed his childhood for the better, it was a gift I couldn't give him."
"It couldn't be any other person that made him feel better. It had to be Rowdy, it had to be a dog," she added.
Umbenhower was equally affected by the experience.
"I have goose bumps when I think about the moment they walked through the door. I'm getting emotional, it’s amazing," she said.
Hours before his meeting with Carter, Rowdy had a seizure. Medical tests are required to diagnose the problem, and Umbenhower has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs.
"If you would consider donating to his campaign, we would be beyond grateful," Umbenhower wrote. "He has a series of x-rays, scans, medications and therapies he desperately needs and every penny helps."