“Who Rescues Who?” The bumper sticker with the paw print graces the back of many
automobiles. There is an army of folks, some independent, others working for large animal welfare
organizations, at the front lines in the battle to save homeless animals. Who are they? What motivates
them? What do they have in common? They come from all countries, all religions, and all political
persuasions. However, the overwhelming majority of them are women.
One handsome young man named Zach Skow stands out in the crowd of thousands of women
at the Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets conference. Zach’s nonprofit animal rescue organization,
Marley’s Mutts, is located on 16 acres in the beautiful Tehachapi hills surrounding his and his father’s
houses. This is a marvelous sanctuary where abused dogs and rescued shelter dogs are rehabilitated and
rehomed. They cater to primarily large dogs over 40 pounds, animals that have a harder time finding
What motivated Zach to establish and operate an animal rescue organization? In 2008, at age
28, Zach Skow was facing end-stage liver disease after battling alcoholism since his teens. He was close
to death, in the hospital for over a month, and too weak for a liver transplant. One of his doctors
recommended exercise, and he began taking walks with his father’s rescue dog named Marley, a
Rottweiler-pit bull mix. He started fostering large dogs for the local Humane society, and experienced
new confidence from his work with them. Zach reports, “I stay sober because of the work I do with the
dogs. After ten months, the doctors found I no longer needed a liver transplant. I credit all that to the
dogs. This work keeps me out of my own head, and gives me focus and purpose.”
Today, Marley is still by Zach’s side. Marley is the “pack General”, the lead in the group of three
permanent dogs at the Rescue. Marley breaks up any disputes between the dogs. Marley’s composure
and application of correction provides a symbiotic relationship between the dogs, and serves to train
the newcomers on how to behave. The rescue dogs are treated like family. The dogs receive treadmill
training, leash training, housebreaking, and learn how to ride in a vehicle. They run with Zach while he
bicycles and skateboards. This socialization ensures they will adapt well into their adoptive homes with
humans and other canines.
Zach is involved in community outreach to drug and alcohol organizations and local schools.
Always accompanied by a dog, he talks to young people about avoiding the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol.
He’s young enough for the students to relate to, and they listen attentively when he tells them how
close he came to not making it out alive.
And the miracles continue to happen for the animals. One dog, Geronimo, arrived at Marley’s
Mutts with badly infected ears, most likely the result of someone trying to crop them with scissors.
Today, Geronimo is a happy pup showing no signs of fear or trauma. Two dogs recently arrived with
third degree burns over most of their bodies, and the Grossman Burn Center was instrumental in saving
them. Today those dogs visit pediatric burn units as therapy dogs.
For those of us involved with rescue dogs, they transform our lives, teaching us lessons of
optimism, forgiveness, and second chances. They give hope to the hopeless, and guide us into the
present, freeing us from past disappointments. They rehabilitate inmates in prison, they sooth the
wounds of veterans traumatized from combat, and they comfort the sick in hospitals. They bring peace
and purpose to trauma victims, and new hope and purpose to those fighting the demon of substance
Zach Skow was featured by Oprah as one of “The 15 Guys Changing the World”. His work with
both animals and young people is an inspiration. He operates in Kern County where the animal shelter is
bursting at the seams, and the euthanasia rate is one of the highest in the country. To meet the
challenge, Marley’s Mutts is adding a new building in order to save and rehome more dogs.
Zach appeared on the Dr. Drew television show and was featured in many news stories. After
reading his story, a woman named Sheyenne wrote, “This is a personally inspiring story for me. As a
professional dog trainer for 26 years…..I thought my life was over when I was admitted to the hospital
for a liver condition very similar to Zach’s, and not a very hopeful prognosis. I am a survivor of a
domestic violence situation in which I was held captive, totally controlled, and assaulted on a daily basis
for 6 months. Over the years, alcohol became a coping mechanism……Zach’s story hit home because it’s
the dogs and the horses that initially gave me the will, one day at a time, to want to recover and
maintain that sobriety….Animals are a constant reminder of how to take life simply and be in the
moment. Exercise is a huge part of recovery, with an organic diet and of course sobriety, but I owe so
much to the beautiful animal friends, specifically my little spicy Chihuahua Paprika who quite literally
saved my life.”
Since March, 2009, Marley’s Mutts has rescued and found homes for over 600 dogs. “They were
throwaway dogs, and there was a time when I felt like a throwaway human being,” Zach
reports, “They’ve experienced a metamorphosis, and so have I.” For more information about Marley’s
Mutts, visit their website at www.marleysmutts.com.