Zach Skow: For a Few Dogs More
Zach Skow

For a Few Dogs More

Illustration by Nickola Nickolov

Аfter a dog saved his life, now Zach Skow is dedicated to save dogs’ lives in return. Founder of Marley’s Mutts, a non-profit organization helping death row dogs, he manages to take care not only of animals but of humans too. Read more on how the Pawsitive Change Program is connecting rescues with inmates to create a mutual support system:

How did you come up with the idea for Marley’s Mutts?

In October 2008 I had my wake-up call. I would look at myself in the mirror feeling like a “throw-away human”, but my dogs saw differently. They would get so excited to see me and love me through my own rehabilitation.

I knew I wanted to help the dogs that were treated similar to how I felt.

Marley's Mutts, The Pawsitive Change Program

Marley’s Mutts would be a home (albeit a temporary one) for these “undesirables.”

What is the inspiration behind the name?

The rescue is named after the dog that helped save my life, Marley.

What is the most important thing when working with rescues?

Establishing that we all have a common goal with rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming dogs from hi-kill shelters. Тhat way we empathize with other rescues and help each other out as much as possible.

Marley's Mutts, The Pawsitive Change Program

How do you deal with the history all rescues come with?

Rescuing is very emotional. We push through by knowing that the dogs are getting the medical help they may need and taken out of the situations they were previously in. For those that we are not able to rescue at that time, we advocate for by showing the public their personality and explaining what their needs might be.

Marley's Mutts, The Pawsitive Change Program

Tell us about more about the Pawsitive Change Program.

It’s a progressive and intensive rehabilitation program which matches death row dogs with inmates inside California State Prisons. First, the Assistant Warden for Programs needs to be supportive of the program. Then funding, trainers, volunteers, overall the right people to help bring the program to life. Having written protocols, procedures and a curriculum. Locating the right dogs for the program can sometimes be a challenge. They all have to be dog and people friendly, evaluated by the trainers working with your program to be sure you are including a balance of different personalities. By focusing on respect and emotional honesty, our program has forged outstanding dog trainers and revealed tremendous emotional breakthrough.

Marley's Mutts, The Pawsitive Change Program

Deep relationships are nurtured between inmate, dog and staff, thus laying the groundwork for Pawsitive Change in all of us.

What is the key ingredient to positive influence when working with animals that have been through a lot?

Providing a safe emotional space and respectful environment allows us to build relationships and therefore effectively communicate the tenets of dog psychology and energy recognition.

Marley's Mutts, The Pawsitive Change Program

How do you create a trusting relationship between people and dogs?

We ask people to take time to meet these dogs. Time and patience is what they need. Though they have been through a lot, they are looking for a loving and caring home.

Marley's Mutts, The Pawsitive Change Program

How can people volunteer?

First of all, they can visit our website: Once the application is submitted, they will be contacted by our coordinator. We are always in need of volunteers, not just for fostering but in a variety of other ways. Or, they can donate at

Marley's Mutts, The Pawsitive Change Program

What’s next?

We are working to expand more into LA with both Adoptions/Fosters, and our Pawsitive Change program will be breaking ground in the near future. Over the past couple years we have been working closely with our local city and county shelters to make Kern County a no-kill: which we are hoping to do by 2020.

Published 04.06.2018