The burned puppies. The mastiff found in the desert and 60 pounds underweight. The one with its ears cut off and then abandoned. The shelters packed with healthy dogs heading for euthanasia. It’s really difficult to imagine those things, isn’t it? Witnessing this steady stream of cruelty and sadness on a daily basis is easily enough to drive you to drink. Or, maybe it’s enough to make you stop.
Looking at Zach Skow today, you see a handsome guy in his early 30’s, healthy and fit. And he is that. If you googled “quintessential SoCal guy”, his picture would pop up and you might say to yourself, “well, you know that guy’s had a charmed life.” But the reality is that just a few years ago he was almost at his end, he’d been drinking himself to death since he was a teenager. By age 28 in 2009, Zach had no will to live, he knew he was going to die, and although he was offered a liver transplant, the first requirement was to stay sober for six months and get into better shape. But where do you begin?
Well, a funny thing happened on the road to sobriety. Or maybe a funny thing happened on the way to saving a few dogs. Either way you look at it, it’s an amazing and inspiring feat. Zach was living with his dad on his 16-acre property in Tehachapi, California. There were a few rescue dogs that his dad had taken in, and Zach began taking them on short walks. Then longer walks. And then more walks. Zach began to feel better, because he was better. The dogs were also doing better, and gradually their numbers grew. And so began Marley’s Mutts.
In just a few short years and many walks later, Zach has saved somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 dogs. He’s built a trustworthy network of foster homes and a good rapport with local veterinarians and shelters. Recently he’s been able to add a few extra folks to help, including an amazing trainer. So Zach and his dog Marley (a Rottweiler/Pitt Bull mix and the organization’s namesake) take it a day at a time, rescuing, socializing and finding homes for as many dogs as they can. As a part of their mission, the group caters to larger dogs, although not exclusively. But most importantly, as stated on their website: “strays, derelicts, vagrants and hobos often need to be correctly socialized—and that is what we specialize in.” From the looks of these faces, I’d say Zach is doing a spectacular job. If you didn’t know better, you’d think these happy dogs had never suffered a dark day.
Zach and his Marley’s Mutts have been getting more and more media attention lately, whether it’s to promote addiction recovery or dog rescue. Oprah likes him, he’ll be featured on Dr. Drew’s show sometime this month, and he’s spreading the word however he can. At some point down the road, don’t be surprised if Zach is instrumental in developing some type of program to help others facing addiction to become sober with the aid of a dog. As Zach has shown already, anything is possible. And a lovely testament to the strength of the human spirit, and the canine spirit as well.
If you would like to donate to Marley’s Mutts, learn more about them, or see the adoptable dogs, please visit their website here. You can also like their Facebook page here.
There is also a great article on Zach’s recovery here.
All photos courtesy Marley’s Mutts