This Cancer-Curing, Dog-Saving Resurrection Story is Pure Sunshine!
The following Resurrection Story started by accident and ended with purpose. Great good purpose. It’s also one of the most inspiring tales we’ve stumbled upon in quite some time.
Fifteen years ago, Zach Skow was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease. An addict, as well as an alcoholic, the illness could well have been caused by his chronic substance abuse. The doctors didn’t say. Not that day anyway. They didn’t tell Zach how much time he had left either. Then again, they really didn’t have to. There aren’t many days to an end-stage anything.
As you might suspect, Zach collapsed into a puddle of woe once he got home. His doggo Marley wasn’t having it though. Not even a little. Marley kept pawing and poking and nuzzling until he got Zach’s attention. And then the devoted doggo wouldn’t stop staring straight into Zach’s tear-filled eyes. “Maybe Marley simply needs a walk,’ thought Zach. So he leashed up his buddy and stepped outside.
That walk would change their lives – forever.
You can’t change a dog’s past, but you can rescue its future.
Those are the words that stand atop Marley’s Mutts’ Zack & Marley page. There’s certainly truth to that sentiment – solid truth. But that truth only tells half the story. Because, as every doggo owner will tell you, the sentiment goes both ways.
It certainly went both ways with Zach & Marley. Zach rescued the Rottweiler-PitBull mix from a Mojave animal shelter back in 2002. Marley was only eight weeks old. He was also small for his breed; so small in fact that Zach used to carry around the pooch in his backpack. When people saw the cute little head poking up and over Zach’s shoulders, their smiles were as wide as the puppy’s.
Of course, Marley eventually outgrew the backpack. But the Zach and Marley bond only grew stronger.
So did Zach’s love of dogs. In 2007, Zach started volunteering at a local animal shelter. He eventually added two more dogs to his pack. But canines weren’t the only thing occupying Zach’s time those days. Not even close. See by then Zach had picked up an affinity for alcohol and drugs.
The Dodo’s Christian Cotroneo picks up the story from there:
Running the door at a bustling improv club in the mid-2000s, Skow was responsible for everything that happened there: the comedians, the patrons, the proceeds. And, crucially, the party.
Skow was soon selling drugs. Drinking. Smoking crack. Drinking. Drugs. Drinking, drinking, drinking.
“I drank 24 hours a day,” he recalls. “There was never a period when I wasn’t intoxicated.”
In fact, Zach drank and drugged so much that it nearly obliterated his liver, as well as his kidneys.
The result: acute alcoholic hepatitis and kidney failure.
Zach was just 28 years old.
Zach went into the hospital at what he thought was a healthy 165 pounds. Weeks later he left weighing only 140. Worse, one doctor’s estimate gave Zach a mere 18% chance of survival if he didn’t get a liver transplant within 30 days.
There was a problem with that though. In order to be eligible for a liver transplant, Cedars-Sinai requires the patient be six months sober.
At the time, Zach didn’t even have six days.
Back to The Dodo:
Skow immediately went into withdrawal, suffering from grossly enlarged veins in his neck called esophageal varices. His mind careened in and out of hallucinations.
“I had no fight in me,” he says, recalling how he would beg his father to take him back to the hospital for a shot of the drugs he now craved.
He ended up tucking himself away in the mountains of his family home in Tehachapi – a space he also shared with his three dogs.
“When I was going through withdrawal I couldn’t tell what was real or what was fake,” he says.
“Having the dogs there with me, having the dogs touched me, helped me immensely, helped me feel connected.”
Resurrection by Doggos…
That brings us to Zach, his pooches and the puddle of woe.
Marley wasn’t the only doggo who wouldn’t take woe for an answer. His brothers Tug and Buddy were also adamant about their fearless leader reclaiming his fearlessness. Zach may not have wanted to live anymore, but his mutts sure wanted him to live. They also needed him.
So out the door they go.
and a Stranger
Zach and his pack were trekking the desert when a figure appeared off in the distance. At first Zach thought wild animal – after all, they were miles away from any outsiders. But even wild animals are rare out where they were walking. Upright wild animals were even more rare.
Scarier too. Because that could only mean they’d seen a bear.
Thankfully, it was no such thing. In fact, it was pretty much the opposite. Instead of a big (and potentially dangerous) bear, it was a normal-sized (and probably harmless) elderly gentleman named Wendell.
The accidental meet-up was pure serendipity.
See, this was the first time Wendell had taken a walk since his wife’s passing. The long-married couple used to walk this way every day. And they’d done just that for decades. It took a good long while before Wendell could summon the strength to get back out there without his beloved partner.
But out there he got. And while Zach looked like something the proverbial cat had dragged in, Wendell couldn’t care less.
The Dodo again:
when the man reached him he paid Skow’s appearance no mind. He was entirely interested in his dogs, petting them and asking their names.
“Up until this point, everything was just about me, about my life and my struggle and how my liver is failing and my difficulties,” he recalls. “Everything was about poor, poor pitiful me.”
Zach eventually learned the man was a neighbor. He also learned that ”that winter morning walk was Wendell’s first since his wife died.”
“He didn’t ask me why I looked fucked up,” Skow old The Dodo. “I’m sure he knew I was fucked up. It was a wake-up call because this guy has gone through something as gnarly, if not more gnarly, emotionally than me and he’s not looking for any sympathy.”
Zach and “Wen” became friends. And they stayed friends until Wen’s passing. Yet even though his friend is gone, Zach surely must feel his impact. After all, it was Wen who compelled Zach to flip the switch.
“If there was a message in that fateful meeting,” wrote Cotroneo, “it was a simple one: Sometimes, you have to just let go, Zach. And just put your faith in a dog. Or three dogs. Or all the dogs in the world.”
That brings us to Marley Mutts. Zach founded Marley’s Mutts in 2009; since then he’s rescued, rehabbed and homed what’s got to be well over 10,000 doggos. Zach’s also kicked drugs and alcohol and saved his liver from needing to be replaced. Then again, 14 years of sobriety will save all kinds of things.
Like those doggos. Many of Zach’s lovable mutts have come from Kern County’s high kill shelters. Yet it’s a cinch those rescued pooches have helped changed the lives of their rescuers as well.
In fact, it’s a verifiable fact. See, Marley’s Mutts doesn’t just rescue pooches; it rescues people too. Well, it creates opportunities for the human-canine bond to form anyway. The doggos and their humans take it from there.
That’s why Zach started the Pawsitive Change® Prison Program and Miracle Mutts® Therapy Dog Program. The former is about “creating hope and opportunity for incarcerated people and pets so both may find a path home.” The latter is “a dedicated group of Marley’s Mutts therapy dogs and their handlers” who help community members that are struggling with various conditions, including autism and isolation.
It’s all about second chances and rescuing the unrescuable, says the site. Just like that which was granted Zach himself.
Now that’s a Resurrection Story!