Saving Shadow – VCA & Marley’s Mutts

As the holidays grow near, we often reflect on moments that stick with us, and when it comes to animal welfare, there are many. Saving the lives of dogs in need is simply a day in the life for the folks at Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue (MMDR), based out of Kern County, CA.  In late 2014 Ashley, an animal control officer in Kern County, California notified the organization that a crate containing 3 dogs had been found by hikers in the middle of nowhere.  Near the crate lay bullet casings and the remnants of tire tracks.

Against all odds

Two of the canines were battered, starved, dehydrated and frightened, but alive. They were later named Clancy and Shadow. As it unfortunately turned out, the third was deceased and frozen solid. Due to the amount of abuse, the cause of death could have been as a result of the 15 degree temperatures the dogs were abandoned in, a gunshot wound, or various other types of abuse. These dogs were most likely left out there for days, with no shade, no protection from the elements, and no food or water. After being taken to the Lake Isabella Animal Shelter, the animals were retrieved by Marley’s Mutts and were obviously well cared for by the shelter and their amazing staff.

Photo courtesy of Marley’s Mutts

According to Marley’s Mutts founder Zach Skow they were not dogs, but rather shivering, petrified souls that had had the life sucked out of them.

“The only thing that they knew was fear–fear of the kennel workers, fear of me, fear of everything. When dogs are afraid, they can be aggressive and Shadow was no exception.”

He was able to tame them after a series of walks– confident trudges where the dogs learn to feed off of confidence! We loaded up in Motor City Buick GMC Mutt Mobile and made for SJVH to have them examined and tests ran.

Despite the bullet casings laying near the cage the dogs were found in, initial examination cleared the animals to go home to new owners. However, one of the rescued, “a friendly pup named Shadow”, began coughing up blood a couple of months after she was adopted. Her frightened new owners took her to the hospital for further x-rays which revealed the worst had happened – that Shadow had been living with a bullet lodged in her lung.

Life-saving medical care at VCA West LA

Zach immediately sent her to the hospital for x-rays and blood work. The x-rays very obviously revealed what they had feared in the beginning: that Shadow had been shot and had a bullet lodged in her lung region.The complicated surgery required was not one that many animal hospitals are equipped to handle, which left Shadow with very few options. She was flown to the Agua Dulce Airport, at which point she was driven quickly to the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital facility.

An emergency CT scan was performed showing the location of the bullet and the extent of the injuries. After Shadow was stabilized, surgery was performed on Sunday February 16th, 2014 by one of VCA WLA’s veterinary specialists, Dr. Sady Cabrera, DVM, DACVS. During the intense 6 hour long surgery, a .40 caliber slug was removed from her chest, along with one of the lobes of her lung that was most compromised by the bullet.

“This was a particularly complex surgery because the bullet had lodged near the heart. Scar tissue had adhered to the pericardium and several large vessels so the surgery had to be very meticulous,” explained VCA surgeon Dr. Sady Cabrera, who performed the surgery.

The team of animal medical experts at the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital facility is one of the finest teams in the country when it comes to complex, life-threatening surgeries, and it was fortunate that they were able to accommodate Shadow in her time of need. Given the circumstances, the hospital made their team and their expertise available at a moment’s notice to tackle this challenging operation, and helped underwrite the open-chest procedure.

Shadow supporters

Donors continued to contribute the remaining funds needed to make Shadow’s life-saving operation possible.They raised close to $12,000, well over the $10,000 goal they set. This allowed Marley’s Mutts and VCA West LA the ability to cover the round the lock care which Shadow so desperately needed. The surgery has been deemed a success, and Shadow was able to return home on Wednesday, February 19th, 2014. Thankfully, Shadow was able to make a full recovery.

Shadow – a Miracle Mutt

Zach Skow, founder of Marley’s Mutts is still in awe of Shadow’s story and had this to say about her journey:

“A .40 cal packs a helluva punch and should have killed her (a few times) but instead she moved in with me and continued the process of rehabilitation, graciously and selflessly not holding a grudge against humans. Not only did she forgive but she absolutely fell in love with me and has continued that allegiance with Robbie, her adopter. Unbelievable. The lessons never stop…”

After a couple months of being Zach’s girl Shadow, she was adopted to Robbie and his Mom. This was an unlikely pair as Robbie was recently released from prison after 12 years of incarceration. Even more interesting is that they are the same age and from the same town.

“I immediately bonded with Robbie and had the most faithful and stoic understanding come over me: that Robbie was meant for Shadow and she for him and that they would help each other transition into this crazy World. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as comfortable about an adoption, but Shadow was going to get her second chance and she was going to do it with her new Dad who was in the midst of his.”


Shadow’s Happy Ending

From Robbie:

“Since Shadow came into my life she has become my balance in life. We have an unspoken bond. She gives me inspiration to fight through the next day.”

Shadow - Marley's Mutts Rescue Dog

Photo courtesy of Abby’s Photography

About VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital
Established in 1984, VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital is one of the largest veterinary hospitals in the country in addition to being the first specialty and referral hospital in Los Angeles. Serving Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, Orange and Ventura counties and the surrounding communities, the facility provides 24/7/365 emergency and critical care services and offers a full complement of specialty services in virtually all areas of veterinary medical specialties. Recently relocated to a 42,000 sq. ft. facility, the hospital is equipped with the most advanced technology to ensure optimal care for its patients.
About Marley’s Mutts
Marley’s Mutts is a non-profit organization that rescues, rehabilitates, trains and re-homes death row dogs from Kern County’s high-kill animal shelters. In addition , we utilize the rescued dogs to transform people’s lives. Through the power of the human-canine bond, we  empower dogs and people to live healthy, happy and productive lives.