Interview with Zach Skow

I have quite the treat today! Monday night I was fortunate enough to interview founder of Marley’s Mutts, Zach Skow for the blog! It’s hard not to like a guy who is doing such amazing work with animals, but Zach has such an easy-going, refreshingly honest, genuine personality, that made interviewing him an absolute breeze!

 From what he told me, the road leading up to this point hasn’t been an easy one, but I would definitely say he has come out on top. I mean, he did just win a Red Cross Real Heroes award, so he must be doing something right. Zach was in end-stage liver disease facing a liver transplant as a result of a drug and alcohol addiction when he began walking to try and nurse himself back to health. His dad and the dogs were his saving grace. The dogs would walk with him, even if it was only to the end of the driveway, stay by his side and even wait outside while he was in the hospital. Gradually, Zach began to improve and was able to increase his distance and start to see major improvements. Before falling ill, Zach had fostered big dogs from the humane society and once he started to improve, he started taking in more dogs. By June 2009, Marley’s Mutts was born and 500 dogs later, Zach is spreading his wings coast to coast.

 First, I wanted to know the process that he went through when getting a new dog. Zach gets most of the dogs he rescues from the pound because he said it is cut and dry, you know what you’re getting. He said, people can be untrustworthy sometimes and will sell you any story to get him to take their dog, but he knows what he is getting when he goes to the pound. Zach starts out by bringing the dog back to his home and assessing the fear level. He wants to know what their fears are so that they can face them and grow from that. With big dogs, this can lead to an intense environment, but he knows what he is doing. The next step is to introduce the new dog to the pack and establish himself as the pack leader. He usually does this by taking them on a run, all the while letting them know that he is in charge. Zach says that usually they fall in line because most dogs would rather be part of a pack, they are scared by themselves and there is a security in having a leader and being a part of the group. Marley’s Mutts operates with no kennels, they all live with Zach, so there has to be a lot of caution when introducing the animals and dealing with them on a day to day basis. There are three things Zach mentioned needing when dealing with the animals and it was exercise, assertiveness and confidence. He has an “aura of dominance” that makes these dogs listen to him, which is important when dealing with such big dogs, like sweet Hera who weighs almost as much as I do!

 Zach is the only one working with the Mutts on a daily basis, but he has a trainer who comes in on weekends, Lisa Porter, to help him out. And of course, Zach always has the strong support of his dad. Zach said that Lisa has been incredibly valuable to him, when at first he doubted how things would work seeing as how the dogs are so big and she was a woman. He said he was definitely proven wrong and it is nice to be humbled by a woman sometimes. Lisa does a lot of training on the treadmill or bike, looking for aggression triggers and teaching them how to fall under command. They do not use a treat-based method when training, they just give positive reinforcement.

 I then wanted to know how Zach manages to fund Marley’s Mutts. He markets himself immensely and he said it’s all about putting himself out there and making a name for himself in the community. He said this was really difficult for him because putting himself out there can be daunting for the introvert in him, whom most people find difficult to believe, including myself because he was exceptionally charismatic and engaging over the phone. Zach said that he did a lot of borrowing and asking for help when he was starting out, which was difficult but has paid off. Kmart used to help out providing food for all the Mutts and now a pet food company sponsors them.

 My final question was what was the most difficult part of his job. First he talked about the raising money and keeping Marley’s Mutts afloat. He finds it frustrating because he wants to focus his energy on what he knows how to do in taking care of all the Mutts. He also said that losing dogs and not being able to do more was another difficult part of the job, but he finds solitude in sharing his emotions with his father.

 We wrapped up the conversation talking about childhood dogs and I will certainly be on the lookout for a new mutt named Major Maddog! I am so thankful to Zach for the opportunity to interview him and learn more about this incredible rescue group. Hopefully one day I’ll be fortunate enough to head out there and meet these mutts in person and even own one! I plan to continue being involved with Marley’s Mutts and singing their praises as often as I can.  😉

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  1. Sydney, you have been a wonderful support to Zach and Marley’s Mutts and I can’t thank you enough.

    • Oh thank you so much! I’m so glad you showed Nana Marleys Mutts so we could enjoy all the wonderful things they’re doing!

  2. So proud of you! Great job!

  3. Great interview and I’ve seen lots of them. Been with Zach and Marley’s Mutts since July of ’09. He truly is an amazing person who inspires me daily!


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