No matter who you are, any dog lover would agree that a good canine companion will change your life for the better.
Marley the Pit Bull / Rottweiler mix was a remarkable dog because he not only saved his human’s life, he inspired him to run a rescue and save the lives of thousands of other dogs that ended up in high-kill shelters.
Zach Skow had been battling with substance abuse since he was a teenager. But when he adopted little Marley, an 8-week-old puppy back in 2002, he had no idea how drastically his life would change.
Skow continued to struggle with addiction over the next few years. But slowly and surely, he began to feel his first sense of self-worth from Marley’s nonjudgemental, unconditional love. In 2006, when Skow hit rock bottom, he knew that he had to make a change – for good.
The dog-dad posted on Facebook:
When I was diagnosed with end stage liver disease and steadily losing my life, it was Marley who helped pull me from despair and towards the light and into the fight. It was his relentless love, omnipresent affection and “today can be the best day of our life” mentality which helped me live again.
When I had no love for self, but rather great contempt, it was Marley who showed me I was worthy of love. Every morning I contemplated suicide, and every morning he looked at me with a blinding affection which simply could not be ignored. He would force me to love myself by showing me how much he loved me. And it worked. I was stubborn and held out as long as possible and nearly lost my life because of it, but it worked!
Skow began to clean up his life as he waited for a liver transplant. According to PupJournal, he began attending AA meetings and became involved with Canine Canyon Ranch, a rescue near his home in Tehachapi, California. The more he surrounded himself with dogs, the more he built his self-esteem, and the happier he was. He even began fostering pups in need of temporary homes. Miraculously, Skow did so well getting sober that within six months of his diagnosis, he no longer needed a transplant, after all.
When the founder of Canine Canyon Ranch informed Skow that he was moving, he encouraged the now-sober dog lover to take over the rescue. He’d be leaving behind the kennels and supplies from the former rescue, and there were hundreds of dogs in the area that would never get a second chance if the no-kill shelter closed down.
Given his new-found lease on life, Skow couldn’t say no to the opportunity, or to the dogs who’d have no chance of surviving without him. So, the rescue was re-named Marley’s Mutts, after the loyal dog who inspired it all.
On Facebook, the Marley’s Mutts mission statement reads:
Kern County’s shelters are bursting at the seams and register some of the highest euthanasia rates in the country. We are committed to these shelter dogs simply because they have NO ONE and are closest to death. These dogs are at the shelter because they have been abandoned, lost, neglected, discarded or abused and many of them have no way out but RESCUE. These dogs are without family, love or representation and we aim to save as many as we can. We are their rescuers, their voice and their future.
In October 2016, 15-year-old Marley began to limp. It was very uncharacteristic of him to show any signs of pain, so Skow knew that something was desperately wrong. Unfortunately, he was right and Marley was diagnosed with late-stage osteosarcoma, or bone cancer. The 90-pound pup was too old to survive treatments, so the only option was to make him as comfortable as possible while they said their goodbyes.
The pup’s favorite human, as well as his two four-legged siblings, were all there to send him off as he peacefully crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.
Marley may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. Even though he’s left this Earth, his legacy remains, saving the lives of thousands of dogs who otherwise may not have had a chance.
In addition to dog rescue, Marley’s Mutts has begun the Pawsitive Change program, “an innovative and progressive program that pairs incarcerated men with rescued dogs for mutual rehabilitation,” explains their website. It looks like Marley’s impact is saving more lives than just the canine kind!
“I had never foreseen myself living longer than my dogs, and it has given me a whole new perspective on life. Now I’m thinking about things like starting a family, and of course — getting more dogs,” Skow said in a story by PupJournal.
Rest in peace, Marley. This beautiful story illustrates how dogs completely change our lives – sometimes, in more ways than we expect.