Malala. Photo Courtesy: Marley's Mutts
Back in 2008, Zach Skow was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, the result of lifelong alcohol abuse. And it was the prospect of rescuing dogs—specifically, dogs who were as scorned, despised and rejected as he was in that state—that made him decide to get healthy and live. He soon launched Tehachapi-based Marley's Mutts, to rescue and heal the dogs who didn't fare so well in the system: "The giant mastiffs, the mangled and mangy mutts, the aggressive and the scared." And, based on his own experience, helping the dogs heal and move on to a better life had a way of healing the human helpers as well.
The Marley's Mutts mission takes a community-based approach to dog rescue: low cost spay-neuter clinic serving the Kern County area, and a training program for service dogs. The Miracle Mutts program helps both rescue dogs and people in the community, as the dogs earn Certified Therapy Dog certificates while providing much-appreciated services, from snuggling with seniors in assisted living to listening attentively as shy school kids read to them; educational programs in local churches, schools and organizations help teach skills for responsible, loving pet care.
Just concluding its first class is the Marley's Mutt's 14-week prison program, "Pawsitive Change Prison Program," which matches inmates with shelter dogs who need help and TLC before they're ready for new homes. The result of long planning, the program is proving a great success with human and canine participants; says Cindy Young of Marley's Mutts, "Inmates are learning to understand feelings and becoming expressive in a positive way, while also training the dogs, bathing, caring and gaining skills which will get them a certificate to help them get employment when they're released."
Caring for dogs—good for them and good for you. Just ask Skow, who today is living a healthy life and helping a lot of dogs escape troubled pasts and do the same.
Photo Courtesy: Marley's Mutts