Dogs improve our lives, it’s a scientific fact! As we’ve discussed several times in the past, studies have shown that having a furry family member can help us physically, mentally and emotionally. Whether it’s helping a senior to be more active, being a companion for the lonely, or providing emotional support for a veteran, a dog’s unconditional love can give us a big boost in our quality of life. This was most definitely the case for young Carter Blanchard of Arkansas.
In 2014, Carter and his mother, Stephanie Adcock, began to notice something odd beginning to happen with his skin. He had started to develop spots on his skin that were much lighter than the color his skin would be normally. After seeing the doctor, Carter was diagnosed with a skin disorder called Vitiligo. Vitiligo occurs when cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. This results in the loss of skin color in blotches.
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In an interview with KATU 2 News in Portland, Oregon, Carter’s mother talked about the struggles he had with his appearance. “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,” said Adcock. Carter didn’t know it at the time, but thousands of miles away he had a friend-to-be named Rowdy that had just started going through the same situation.
“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 told KATU. “The skin will develop a patch of pink or white, but it will lighten the skin in that area.” She was surprised to learn that her dog had Vitiligo.
Carter’s mother had seen on Facebook, a story of a dog who had Vitiligo, just like Carter. “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,” Stephanie said. Rowdy’s owner, Niki Umbenhower and Stephanie have given Carter and Rowdy the opportunity to stay in touch over the internet. It’s given them the chance to share their new spots and has been a boost to Carter’s confidence. For years, the duo dealt with vitiligo as a team. But his mom knew that meeting Rowdy in person would mean even more to Carter.
Since Carter and Rowdy live 2,000 miles apart, Stephanie and Niki, along with another family, started a GoFundMe campaign. Support had already started flowing in, when a local news station ran the story. Shortly afterwards, an anonymous donor offered to cover the expense for Carter to meet Rowdy! But even more touching is this. During the beginning stages of the fund-raising campaign, another young girl with Vitiligo named Ava had seen the story and become inspired by Rowdy as well. Not only did the anonymous donor cover Carter’s travel expenses, they covered Ava’s as well! They finally got to meet Rowdy!
“Rowdy is the one who completely changed Carter’s outlook. Instead of hating his skin, he’s learned to love it,” said Adcock. “After Rowdy got positive attention from all over the world for his vitiligo, Carter saw that he could also get positive attention. Now, he even thinks my skin is ‘boring’ because I don’t have vitiligo.”
Ava Brown’s mother, Julie, was in tears when Rowdy and Ava finally met. “The confidence of my little girl went through the roof when she knelt down and started giving Rowdy kisses and petting him,” said Brown. “She is still beaming with pride, knowing that she is unique and special, and that she shares the same skin condition as Rowdy.”
“When I figured out we have the ability to change these kids’ lives, I thought, ‘We could really do something with this,'” said Niki Umbenhower. “My dog is unique. He’s beautiful — and so is every other person who has this condition. You just need to see them that way.”
Did this story warm your heart like it did ours? Let us know in the comments below and share this wonderful story with all of the dog lovers in your life!