From Hell to Dog Heaven

Marley's Mutts logo

An interview with Zach Skow in June 2016 provided insight as to an in-depth look into the amazing dog rescue organization called Marley’s Mutts.  Marley’s Mutts was officially founded in Tehachapi, CA in 2009. Skow dedicates his life to rescuing at-risk dogs in shelters, expanding a K9 program in a high security prison, working with individuals in recovery to train therapy dogs and even goes to foreign countries to save dogs. During our discussion, he spoke about how Marley’s Mutts got started, where they are now and future plans for a new K9 Community Center that will focus on education, rehabilitation, and be a resource for people who want to improve the life of their dogs.

After Skow battled with addiction to alcohol and drugs, he found relief among dogs. At that time in 2008, he turned yellow, was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, and lived a life of misery. He said, “My soul felt like it was sruggling to be heard over all of the voices in my head because I hated myself so badly.” He could barely function and the doctors told him that he desperately needed a liver transplant, but would have to be sober for at least six months beforeMarleys-Mutts-Founder-Zach-Skow he could be on the wait-list.  They told him he might not live more 90 days.  Skow took all of this hatred of himself and focused on his Pit Bull Marley. At first it was difficult for him to even walk, but he slowly began his road to recovery with the help of his dog. Skow learned how to care for himself and his furry four-legged friends by learning how to spay and neuter them as well.

Each year Marley’s Mutts started increasing the dogs they have saved. Although he doesn’t have a total count, he says he rehomes at least one dog per day and guesses around 2500 dogs have been a success. According to Skow, the number one reason dogs are surrendered is because of stray due to neglect as well as unforeseen life-changing situations. Chihuahuas and Pit bulls are the most difficult to place, which is sad because they are often overbred.

Skow’s typical day starts out by waking up at 7 am to feed the dogs, then he walks them. Once back at the office he spends the next 2 hours answering emails, tending to the social media sites, and coordinating with the other shelters about future rescues. Skow admits that he does not take many days off, but when he does it is spent with a foster child he mentors.  At the end of his day, he usually finds at least two rescues taking up residence at his personal home, one who sleeps with him and another who sleep in his roommate’s bed. While his own two dogs, Maggie and Baloo, cuddle up on the couch together. It’s one big happy dog family and it’s never a dull moment.

All of the other Marley’s Mutts gang live with their foster homes. If anyone wants to offer their homes to foster, they are always looking for people who are willing to volunteer. Skow indicated that there are many “dog jobs” volunteers can do including social media, fostering, vet services, and training.  Each week Skow works with Miracle Mutts, which is a program designed for men and women in recovery at The Mission in Kern County.  Every Tuesday Skow goes to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to tend to the Pawsitive13584653_10153638879542478_3606540719041499222_o Change Prison Program. They match a select few inmates with dogs from high-kill animal shelters for twelve weeks. During the twelve weeks, the activities include two daily walks, socializing time, playtime and rigorous K9 good citizen training. Upon completion, the dog will leave with the Canine Good Citizen certification and the inmates receive a vocational/training certificate. This is a win-win for both the inmate and the dog because they have better chances of being a success outside of the facility. The dogs that were scheduled to be unplaceable or potentially euthanized are adoptable and the inmates have a skill to make them be more employable.

Skow said the program started with 17 inmates and 7 dogs, but has increased the program to 27 inmates Pawsitivity Prison K9 Programand 10 dogs. It’s been a great success so far and he hopes to bring the program to more locked detention centers. Marley’s Mutts efforts don’t stop here in the U.S, they even go to foreign countries to rescue dogs. Skow has rescued 10 dogs from Korea, 10 dogs from India and 24 dogs from Thailand. Rescue missions can be quite dangerous and have unique challenges in bringing the dogs back, but every dog deserves a chance.

Zack Skow

In the end, the doctors were incorrect in Skow’s diagnosis. He is still currently alive and well, even though he never ended up having the liver transplant. Skow’s story is inspiring and memorable. His mission and passion in life are to rescue lives of people and rescue dogs. It’s amazing to know that dogs and people without any hope can turn it all around and create such positive impacts on the world.

Happy Tails!


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Aja Niemann is a writer, educator, dancer, activist, and philanthropist.