Nearly 130 miles from Hermosa Beach is Tehachapi, CA, where Zach Skow spends his afternoons rescuing and finding homes for hundreds of abandoned dogs.
The Hermosa native, who attended Redondo Union High, founded the nonprofit dog rescue group Marley’s Mutts in April 2009, months after facing a tumultuous battle with alcoholism.
Skow was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease three years ago at age 28.
At the time, he lived in and out of the hospital for months and thought he had reached the end of the line, he said.
“I didn’t have much will to live…I was anxious, afraid, nervous and couldn’t sleep,” Skow told Patch.
Weak and bedridden, Skow developed sclerosis of the liver and was in desperate need of physical activity to regain the muscle strength he lost from suffering severe abdominal pain, drastic weight loss and bloating (he looked nine months pregnant at 130 pounds, he recalled.)
Having worked for the Humane Society prior to his sickness, Skow decided to walk two to three large rescue dogs each day for exercise.
“I started to get better and better each month,” he said. “Walking dogs every morning kept me alive.”
Skow’s story of being rescued by rescue dogs caught the attention of writers at O magazine, where he is featured in the March 2011 issue (see accompanying photo).
Skow modestly described his O feature as being “very cool.”
He is now healthier, sober and continues to walk his four-legged friends, but this time it is for a different cause: to rehabilitate other abandoned pups and help find them permanent homes.
Specializing in larger dogs, Skow shelters and trains the animals that sometimes receive a lack of attention and care due to their size and demeanor.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility to take in these strays and give them a new life,” Skow said, just as they have helped him regain his.
Skow named Marley’s Mutts after his “behemoth” Rottweiler-pit bull mix, Marley, who he fostered and adopted from the Humane Society in 2009.
Marley was there every step of the way during Skow’s recovery, and now functions as “second in command” at Marley’s Mutts, Skow said.
Through the program, Skow’s Mutts begin the morning between 7:30 and 8 a.m., jogging (sometimes Skow skates) back and forth from Skow’s Tehachapi home to his father’s, which sits just yards away.
Then Skow said a 40-minute drive to the California City Animal Shelter is made to provide food and vaccinations to the dogs.
Skow has pulled more than 100 scared and tormented dogs from this shelter, which he described as “the San Quentin of dog shelters, a barking chaos,” he said.
Next, a stop to the Tehachapi Veterinary Hospital is made, where he said most of the neglected dogs are taken in for care.
With the help of Marley’s Mutts, Skow has transformed dogs “from out of their minds crazy to resilient and calm; from being incapable of receiving and giving love to not leaving my side for a minute,” he said.
The 16 acres of land that surrounds Skow’s and his father’s homes in Tehachapi are the grounds where these canines learn how to be dogs again.
With Marley’s help in welcoming new dogs into the pack, keeping them in line and breaking fights, Marley’s Mutts almost serves as a dog academy where graduates hope to find loving families that will adopt them.
Skow and his team have made more than 300 adoptions happen, and the number continues to grow. “Getting to see a dog with a family is the most fulfilling part about my job,” Skow said.
To learn more about Marley’s Mutts and view adoptable dogs, visit the group’s website.