— -- An 8-year-old boy with a skin disorder that causes white patches on his skin was able to fly across the country to meet a dog with the same condition.
Both the boy, Carter Blanchard, of Searcy, Arkansas, and the dog, Rowdy, 13, who lives with his owners in Oregon, have vitiligo, a disorder with no known cause in which the cells that make pigment in the skin are destroyed, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Carter when diagnosed with the disorder in December 2014 when he was in kindergarten. The first white patches appeared around his eyes and caused him to lose confidence, according to his mom.
“He was at a big school with a lot of kids and his face was transforming very quickly,” Stephanie Adcock told ABC News. “As he was trying to come to terms with it, he had his classmates trying to also because his face was changing in front of them.”
She added, “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.”
It was around that time that Adcock saw a photo of Rowdy by chance while scrolling through Facebook. She clicked on his photo not knowing that he had the same condition as her son.
Adcock quickly discovered that Rowdy had gained a worldwide following because of his unique look. The dog, who was also diagnosed with vitiligo in 2014, has his own website and social media accounts.
Carter began watching videos of Rowdy online and made what his mom called a “180” in how he thought of his skin disorder.
“Vitiligo is a very rare condition and he was very upset that he had it but now he is proud that he was chosen to have vitiligo and this is the way he is and he wouldn’t have it any other way,” Adcock said. “He thinks that everyone else’s skin is boring.”
Adcock and Rowdy’s owner, Niki Umbenhower, began to email each other and kept in touch. When the story of Carter and Rowdy’s friendship was featured on Oregon ABC affiliate KATU, an anonymous viewer donated $5,000 to help fly Carter and his mom to Oregon to meet Rowdy in person.
Carter and Rowdy met over the weekend for the first time.
“When we walked in I didn’t feel like we were walking in for the very first time, they were family already,” Adcock said. “You could tell Rowdy knew something was going on and felt the energy of the room.”
Umbenhower said Rowdy has reacted to Carter as if they were old friends.
“Carter will be on the floor doing Legos and Rowdy will come and lay down next to him,” she said, adding of the pair's first meeting, "Carter hugged him and petted him for two hours straight and they’ve been together ever since.”