A black Lab with vitiligo is offering a supportive paw to children who have the same skin condition.
The Instagram feed of White Eyed Rowdy is full of photos of the adorable dog — who has striking white patches around his eyes — posing with children and adults with vitiligo, which affects about 50 million people worldwide, according to Vitiligo Support International.
“He recently has developed these crazy circles around his eyes, that we believe is vitiligo,” says the dog’s owner, Niki Umbenhower, in a YouTube video posted last year. “This just started happening in the last two years of Rowdy’s life.”
The 13-year-old dog from Oregon brings awareness wherever he goes, without ever saying a word. “When we’re out and about a lot of people aren’t really sure what vitiligo is and I often just say it’s a skin pigmentation but that it’s basically like what Michael Jackson had,” Umbenhower says, adding: “Rowdy definitely loves the attention, he gets lots of treats out of the deal.”
The video says the pup has become a representative for the American Vitiligo Research Foundation, and with one look at his Instagram feed (he has 61,000 followers!), you’ll see why children respond so well to the dog.
“I met Jessica today. She is a beautiful 11 year old who also has vitiligo,” says a photo shared on the dog’s Instagram on Monday. “Those that look beyond her skin condition will see she has a huge heart, is very smart, and is one strong girl!”
In another photo, a youngster holds a drawing she penned of Rowdy “because we both have Vitiligo!” says the post. “She’s beautiful inside and out, such a strong young lady, has a beautiful voice, and is making a difference!!”
Making a difference is exactly how Rowdy plans to spend this next chapter of his life. “Now that Rowdy has entered his golden years of life he would like to use these beautiful vitiligo markings to bring awareness and understanding for kids who have developed the same skin condition,” says a message on his website. “It’s Rowdy’s wish that all children and adults see vitiligo as a unique blessing that’s rewarded with lots of love, attention, and treats, just like he gets.”