Guest Blogger: Marley’s Mutts
By Zach Skow
I have rescued dogs that have been shot, stabbed, set on fire, beaten and starved within an inch of their lives. They all have amazing stories and have all survived to thrive! Our most recent harrowing story belongs to Shadow, whose name speaks of her dark past but also her undying loyalty.
Shadow’s Story begins with a phone call on December 5th from Officer Ashley of Kern County Animal Services. The tone in her voice was ominous and distressing. She told me that hikers had found 3 large dogs stuffed into a single-dog-crate, way off the beaten path, in the foothills above Ridgecrest. One dog was clearly dead and frozen, and the two survivors where injured but alive. The only clues as to their origin were from anonymous tire tracks that led away from the scene. Temperatures had neared single digits the previous night and we weren’t sure how long they had been out there, therefore it wasn’t clear if the deceased dog had frozen to death, died from exposure or succumbed to other injuries.
Ashley asked for us to help save them, we of course obliged and met the two dogs the following day at the Lake Isabella Animal Shelter. The shelter staff had given them new names– Shadow (girl) and Clancy (boy)– but they needed new everything: new confidence, renewed faith, new love, new lives. Their transformation and renaissance began that day at the shelter. The dogs had shown some fear aggression, and aside from that were virtually petrified. Each of them had sustained serious injury, both mental and physical, which had obviously created a posttraumatic stress disorder scenario. Their souls had nearly been sucked from their bodies and they needed an infusion of confidence, which could only be delivered by a Pack Leader, someone with confidence who, leading by example, would show them that they had nothing to fear. I would become their pack leader and with some simple leash training techniques, would allow them to shed their fear and look upon life with a sense of comfort. Neither of those dogs wanted to budge from their kennels and were poised to strike. I treat their growls as simple noise and their body language as impotent posturing. My goal is to get a leash around their neck as quickly as is safe and pull them out of the kennel with authority: they will not go on their own accord and giving them treats to try coax them and soften the situation not only didn’t work but got the other dogs riled-up. Once the leash is in place we turn and go—it’s that simple. We don’t walk but trudge with the dog moving at our pace regardless. Trudging is to walk with purpose and with this simple demonstration of confidence in direction; the dogs begin to let down their guard and see the world again for the first time! Trudging with a dog is a crucial first step towards liberating a dog from fear. By dominating the situation with my confident body language, steadfast and deliberate movements and “won’t take no for an answer” attitude, it was just a matter of time before they were walking on a leash and had sense of freedom without fear, even love.
The next step was to load up in the Motor City Mutt Mobile and make our way to San Joaquin Veterinary Hospital (SVH) to have the dogs examined. San Joaquin is a critical ally in this fight for several reasons, not the least of which is that we can show up at virtually anytime during business hours and see our dogs immediately. Doc Willis determined that the wounds were superficial, not life threatening but took an x-ray of Clancy just to be sure. X-rays were clear and our pups would heal for a few days at San Joaquin before coming to the rescue for rehab. The staff at San Joaquin, led by our pal Andrea Bertolucci, knew exactly how to care for dogs that are going through a both physical and mental rehab. If we were to take Shadow and Clancy from the kennels of the shelter to the kennels of the vet and leave it at that, they could regress and even get socially more uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. At SJVH they receive a level of care that allows them to heal mentally, physically and even socially and that makes all of the difference! Both dogs continued to improve and were then ready for their transition to the rescue. Shadow came to live with me and Clancy at a foster home up the street. Shadow became, well, my shadow and there wasn’t much that we didn’t do together! We are training to run the Chicago Marathon again and Shadow routinely accompanied me on 4-5 miles jaunts.
After being my Shadow for nearly two months, our girl was adopted by a wonderful man named Robbie and his Mom, Lisa. This was an especially magical pairing because Robbie was from the same age as me, from the same neighborhood as me but had recently been released from prison after 12 years of incarceration. A reformed and gentle soul, Robbie was looking for a friend with whom he could continue his own spiritual rehabilitation. He found his soul mate in Shadow and she found the same in him. Both Robbie and Shadow needed help adjusting to a world that is scary and daunting but together it was all-possible. Undoubtedly, these two would walk a peaceful path together, back into a world that once had shown them only violence.
After a few weeks of blissful bonding between Robbie and Shadow, Robbie called me, and with controlled panic in his voice said, “Bro, I don’t know what to do. Shadow is coughing up blood.” We immediately sent Shadow to the hospital for x-rays and blood work. The x-rays revealed what none of us could imagine: Shadow had been shot some months earlier and had a large caliber bullet lodged in her chest. When the following morning came and her condition had worsened, the Mutt Militia kicked it into high gear! Holly and Rick – a couple of our most dedicated foster parents – volunteered to fly Shadow from Lake Isabella to as near to LA as possible, while I reached far and wide over the phone. I was referred to a hospital that is primed to deal with the kind of extremely specialized emergency surgery Shadow would need, albeit incredibly expensive. We got a Fundrazr.com page up and running, plastered it all over the social-mediasphere, and generous pledges from across the globe started pouring in. I was en route to Bakersfield from down South, and so flipped U-turn after the Grapevine and headed to Agua Dulce Airport. I met Holly, Rick and Shadow on the tarmac, swapped our burned puppy, Chance, for Shadow, and hit the road at the speed of life! Less than 45 minutes later, we arrived at VCA All Care Animal Hospital in West Los Angeles, where our brave girl would be seen by a leading specialist who was well qualified to help save her life. And by early the next morning, she and her team had removed a .40 caliber slug from Shadow’s body, along with one of the lobes of her lung.
Against all odds, including a severe bleed during surgery, Shadow survived!!! We needed to raise nearly 15k which seemed at first to be folly, or at least unattainable, but astonishingly we raised nearly 10k in a just a few days! Kern County stepped up the most (as usual) sending in donations from over 200 people. Shadow’s story reached far and wide as donations poured in from over a dozen states and a handful of countries.
Shadow is home now with Robbie and on the mend. She will make a full recovery and both she and Robbie will help us give back by touring Kern County and telling their story. We can tolerate these atrocities if we make effort to learn from them and to teach about them. If you are interested in being a part of the Mutt Militia, please visit Marleysmutts.com and fill out a volunteer application.
Click here to help shadow and Marley’s Mutts: http://marleysmutts.com/my-membership-options-page/