Zach Skow is the founder of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue—a non-profit that helps rehabilitate dogs and prevent inmates from becoming re-offenders.
Zach developed a drug and alcohol dependency problem that lasted from his teens to 20s.
By the time he was 28, doctors told him he had end-stage liver disease.
He overcame drug and alcohol addiction and liver disease, claiming his work founding the charity Marley’s Mutt Dog Rescue inspired his recovery. He has now turned his attention to helping prison inmates create a new life for themselves through dog training.
Zach states he has struggled with alcoholism throughout his life and recalls mixing drinks at the age of 9, struggling with alcohol dependency since then. Alongside alcoholism, Zach was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, causing him to disconnect from intimacy and avoid romantic situations.
After years of alcohol abuse, he was diagnosed with liver failure. In order to qualify for a transplant programme, he had to demonstrate sobriety. Zach found the strength and inspiration to overcome his alcohol addiction and live a more health-focused life by focusing on his work with rescue dogs.
He credits therapy with helping come to terms and overcome his sexual abuse. He claims at therapy he had a “conscious and subconscious realisation.” Through hard self-evaluation work, he was able to “connect trauma with how [his] anxiety manifests itself”, allowing him to move on from his past.
“You got to get to the bone marrow of life”
Zach expresses his belief there is a ‘new masculinity’ evolving across the states. He runs a programme called Positive Change with prison inmates, teaching them how to train dogs and encouraging “emotional availability and honesty”. His work encourages men to talk about “things that men don’t think they are able to talk about.” Zach credits the programme’s success to his dogs and own emotional openness, which both ‘promote vulnerability’
So does Zach’s prison programme work? The statistics speak for themselves.
In the USA, the recidivism rate for violent offenders within three years is 50%, within 6 years is 75% and within 9 years is 90%.
“It’s a lot easier for us to think of it as they are bad people. I look at them as children, each with a gigantic source of potential.”
By starting inmates on a dog trainer career path, Zach humanises them and gives inmates the power to think of themselves as something other than a prisoner.
Reflecting on his work, he explains “I learnt so much about myself in this process and how truly wonderful human beings are in their core” adding, “I see beauty all around me in human beings”.
Zach recognises his work with animal shelters as a true group effort.
“The work that people can do as digital advocates and donors is almost as important as the work we are doing.”
All the little decisions and challenges ultimately make and shape you into a person that is constantly learning and growing. Happiness is not about struggling to the top of the mountain nor wandering aimlessly in the valley but enjoying the view on the climb to the peak.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self? What difference do you think that advice would make?
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