SAN ANTONIO -- Rowan Windham's desire to help others has never failed him. His health, on the other hand, could use some work.
Rowan has been raising money to help chronically-ill children for most of his life. During that same time, the New Braunfels boy has been battling Schwachmann-Diamond Syndrome. Now, he's getting a charitable hand from the long arm of the law.
"Very few people -- even adults -- have the ability to shrug off the difficulties and move forward with their lives," Comal County Sheriff's Deputy Duane Buethe said.
Fighting his rare genetic disorder, 7-year-old Rowan has been hospitalized more than 800 days.
Rowan can only eat certain foods. School is a medical impossibility.
Sometimes, Rowan's strong enough to go outside and take in some sunshine and fresh air. This past May was one of those occasions.
Rowan and his mother, Carrie, attended a ceremony where the newly-formed Comal County K-9 unit had just completed training. Titan, a four-legged member of the unit, was described to the crowd as a dog that has had bouts with illness. Rowan could identify.
"He gets sick a lot like me," Rowan explained. "Except ... well, I'm human and he's a dog."
When Rowan got sick again, the K-9 unit got word and paid the boy a visit in the hospital. This time, Titan connected.
"Titan, without hesitation, just jumped up in that bed and just started loving on that little boy," Buethe remembered. "It was like they were connected in some way."
From that meeting, the deputies and the New Braunfels Police Department gave birth to the 'Toughest Dog in Texas' competition. A dog challenge that benefits the Rowan Windham Foundation.
The animals and their handlers will run 2.3 miles on a sprawling 5,000-acre ranch in Ingram, Texas. The proceeds go to help chronically ill children -- Rowan doesn't pocket the money, even to defray his rising medical bills.
"We give like socks and pillows and toys and blankets to them," Rowan said. "We also give pillows to the parents who stay in the hospital a lot."
Nearly two-dozen dogs and their handlers, from as close as Bexar County and as far away as Denton, will participate in the competition on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2013.