A Rescuer and His Dog: Meet Marley’s Mutt’s Zach Skow and Hooch

Together, a mutilated dog named Hooch and his owner — Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue’s Zach Skow — face the future with hope and love.

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When Hooch, a Dogue de Bordeaux, entered a California animal shelter that euthanizes thousands of dogs a year, Zach Skow knew the dog had no chance unless his rescue organization, Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue, saved him.

Likely a survivor of dog fighting, Hooch had only severed stumps where his ears once flopped. But Skow didn’t discover the extent of his injuries until he took the emaciated dog for a veterinary exam. Hooch wasn’t eating and was getting thinner and thinner. He weighed only 42 pounds, compared to the 90 pounds he weighs now. The vet discovered the horrifying explanation for the wasting: Someone had completely cut out his tongue.

“He was absolutely brutalized by mankind and holds no grudge whatsoever,” Skow says about Hooch, whom he brought home in August 2013 and kept as his own.

Healing walks

Skow struggled with alcoholism so severe that, in his late 20s, he had end-stage liver disease and needed a transplant. Overwhelmed by his addiction and illness, Skow felt suicidal — until the day he started walking with Marley, his Rottweiler-pit bull mix (the rescue’s namesake), and Tug, a Labrador mix. His two dogs, who today are both still alive and doing well, accompanied him on his daily, doctor-recommended walks to watch the sunrise, and Skow experienced a life transformation from his puppy love.

“All the things that we went through — (Marley and Tug) were just always there, every minute and every day,” Skow says. Skow, now sober, didn’t get the liver transplant; his body healed without it.

Founded in 2009, Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue is “a direct way to give back to the dogs who saved my life,” he says. “Without the dogs, I would not have survived.”
Marley’s Mutts rescues big dogs and works with a network of foster homes in Southern California. Skow himself fosters many of the dogs at his ranch in Tehachapi, Calif.

COURTESY OF MARLEY'S MUTTS DOG RESCUE Hootch suffered great cruelty at the hand of humans, yet he holds no grudges. The big, sweet dog does therapy work with autistic children with the utmost patience.
Hootch suffered great cruelty at the hand of humans, yet he holds no grudges. The big, sweet dog does therapy work with autistic children with the utmost patience.

Now that Hooch lives with Skow, the dog’s special needs give him purpose by focusing on caring for his pet. Skow begins each day slowly hand-feeding numerous little scoops of moistened food into Hooch’s throat — a method Skow devised through trial and error. Without a tongue, Hooch cannot chew, swallow normally or taste. Despite this, “Hooch is the most contented dog I’ve ever met,” Skow says.

Hooch joins Skow and a few other Marley’s Mutts dogs on their regular visits to Valley Achievement Center, a Bakersfield, Calif., school for children with autism. Although these children often scream, they act gently and compassionately with Hooch, who becomes even calmer when he’s around the children.

“Everybody just loves that dog,” Skow says of Hooch. “He’s like a big orange bear.”

Skow shares Hooch at other places with people in need, such as a homeless shelter where prisoners on work-release programs stay. You just couldn’t keep a canine blessing like this to yourself, could you?

About Marley’s Mutts Rescue

California-based Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue specializes in fostering and adopting out large dogs, but the organization’s motto is “All breeds, all creeds welcome.” Volunteers rescue, rehabilitate, train and re-home dogs facing euthanasia at high-kill animal shelters in Kern County, Calif. The group, which has rescued about 2,000 dogs to date, does not accept owner surrenders or found strays but might expand to do that in the future. Visit them on Facebook.

Kellie B. Gormly

Kellie Gormly is a Pittsburgh-based journalist otherwise known as “Mother Catresa” to homeless kittens and cats. Read about her adventures in fostering on her blog.


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