Founder of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue
In 2008, all Zach Skow could think about was taking his own life.
Diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, the result of a lifetime of alcoholism and drug abuse, he was in a dark place as he went through opiate withdrawal and going without alcohol for the first time in decades. Looking at himself in the mirror, he couldn’t recognize the person staring back at him.
But his dogs did. That’s when he decided to live for them.
Today, he’s dedicated to preserving life – not just for thousands of abused and neglected dogs, but for humans in need of a second chance.
“I feel that my biggest purpose is to find value in the throwaways,” he said. “I felt like one myself. That’s whom we rescue and that’s whom we advocate for.”
Through rescuing and rehabilitating dogs to its Pawsitive Change Prison Program and more, Marley’s Mutts has garnered the support and attention of hundreds of thousands, accumulating fans in 120 countries across its social media platforms using an approach that defies social norms. In an age where social media feeds are filled to the brim with highlights – stories people want others to see – Zach uses the medium to talk freely about the not-so-great aspects of life, shedding light on subjects that are real, raw and relatable.
“If I look back on what’s the key variable, what’s made this a success, it would be vulnerability,” he said. “True connections are forged not through shared happy experiences, necessarily, but through mutual life combat – the s--- that’s difficult. That’s how we really bond and get close to one another.”
The support he gives to the community reflects the support he’s received in turn.
“The organization is just a product of Kern County,” Zach said, adding that the community rallies in support of one another because Kern County itself is an underdog. “It wasn’t a plan to even really create this. It just happened by my community pushing me to do this. It wouldn’t have come from inside me to have the audacity to hope that I could be the director of a nonprofit, especially as an alcoholic and drug addict.”