Before Zach Skow and his rescue organization, Marley’s Mutts, started rescuing “death row” dogs, Skow was the one who needed rescuing.
“I wasn’t used to doing anything without alcohol or drugs. I was scared of everything, absolutely petrified,” said Skow.
Marley’s Mutts is a non-profit organization where Skow and his crew rescue dogs from Kern County’s animal shelter. Kern County’s animal shelter has one of the highest killing rates in the nation due to the high volume of animals they receive.
Skow has had dogs in his household most of his life. He also started in dog rescue in 2005 with the Humane Society. But these are not the reasons why he now rescues dogs.
From an early age, Skow was heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol. Being intoxicated was his norm and when he was not intoxicated he felt out of place in every aspect of life.
“Being physically addicted really prevented me from succeeding in anything I tried,” said Skow.
Skow estimated that he’s attended 10 schools including Bakersfield College.
“I drank in class. I drank in the parking lot at BC. I’d go to the liquor store around the corner and just fill up a cup with vodka or just beer. I’d buy an Old English 40. Then brush my teeth in the parking lot. Just ghetto and shady shit,” said Skow.
Skow was 23 when he realized that he was physically addicted to alcohol.
“I tried to go one day without drinking, and I went into full blown withdrawal,” said Skow. “Alcohol withdrawal is the most dangerous type of withdrawal. It can kill you.”
Skow had to go to the hospital, and they told him he needed a medically aided detox. He said, “I don’t plan on not drinking I just plan on going one day … are you crazy.”
Shortly after that, Skow’s liver failed. He spent two months at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. He then got transferred to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills where he, coincidently, was born. Cedars-Sinai is one of seven transplant hospitals in California.
Skow needed a liver transplant but had to be sober for six months before his body was healthy enough to accept the liver.
“Day in and day out things were just as bad as they could get physically,” said Skow.
Skow was going through alcohol withdrawal, causing him to vomit and defecate blood often. He also had a catheter in his back that drained his stomach.
Skow began writing a journal and walking Marley, Tug, and Buddy, rescue dogs from the Humane Society, every day.
There was a time when he felt that he didn’t want to be alive.
“The only way I could get my confidence up to not just put a bullet in my face was with my dogs,” said Skow. “They helped me face each day. We’re going to do this, it’s not just you.”
One of Skow’s struggles while being sober was that he didn’t know how to properly socialize. The dogs helped him with socializing because he didn’t feel as self-conscious when the dogs were with him.
Skow traded his addiction of drugs and alcohol with health and exercise. The health choices and exercising with the dogs began to slowly and then quickly help him get physically better.
“I took trying to live like I took after alcohol and drugs,” said Skow.
When the six months was up and he was eligible for a transplant, he no longer needed one. With the help of the dogs, he ended up rehabbing his liver.
Skow realized that the dogs rescued him when he needed to be rescued so he then decided to take a page out of Canine Canyon Ranch’s book and returned the favor by rescuing dogs.
“My biggest dream is to have a human and dog rescue side by side,” said Skow.
In May of 2009, he corporated Marley’s Mutts. Marley is one of the dogs that rescued Skow, and that is why Skow named the dog rescue Marley’s Mutts.
Marley is the pack leader of Marley’s Mutts. He breaks up all the fights and keeps everything in order in the pack. “He’s 13 now, but he is still a ‘G’,” said Skow.
Marley’s Mutts has received a lot of recognition across the world with fans in 44 countries.
Marley’s Mutts has adopted out around 250 dogs as of the end of 2014. They are already exceeding that number this year with the addition of transporting dogs out of state via airplanes.
Marley’s Mutts and Skow have gotten involved with a lot of people and places in the community.
Skow has been working with well-known dog trainer Cesar Millan. “Working with Cesar Millan has been awesome,” said Skow.
Skow is working on getting a rehabilitation program going with the Kern County Sheriff Department. It is slow going, but Skow hopes to have a program where the inmates help rehabilitate the rescue dogs and in the process the dogs rehabilitate the inmates.
Miracle Mutts is an educational program that Marley’s Mutts has. Miracle Mutts goes to as many schools as possible to educate students.
Miracle Mutts has an event at Beale Library every other Wednesday called Barks and Books. This event is for children who have a hard time reading.
“In order to succeed in school you have to be able to read out loud,” said Skow.
The Barks and Books event has the kids read out loud to the dogs. Skow explained that if you ask the kids to read to an adult they won’t do it, but when you ask them to read to the dogs, they will. The kids feel that people will judge them while they read out loud, but they feel no judgment from the dogs.
They have a Barks and Books event specifically geared to help first-generation English speakers read out loud.
Skow explained how the community of Bakersfield is amazing and thanks them for being so caring and supportive of him and Marley’s Mutts.