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Unchained Melodies: Rescue, Rehab, Rehome

Unchained Melodies: Rescue, Rehab, Rehome

  • "Rescue, Rehab, Rehome" originally appeared in the June 2024 "Animal" issue of COMO Magazine
Unchained Melodies Volunteer Booth

Unchained Melodies advocates for the dogs with no voice.

Melody Whitworth was not an animal-obsessed child; one may assume that about the founder of a dog rescue. She found her love for animals later in life after caring for her own pets and working in a high-kill animal shelter in Naples, Florida. Whitworth’s time at the shelter opened her eyes to pet owners that can easily abandon their animals — or even starve a pet to death.  

“I had a really hard time wrapping my head around it and accepting it. And an even harder time with the general public thinking it’s okay,” said Whitworth. “I think it (the attitude) is slowly changing, but there’s just still so much of it. Animals are as innocent as children. They just can’t help themselves. They’re at our mercy. They give us so much. We should give it back to them.” 

Later, Whitworth’s romantic relationship brought her to Columbia. While searching for a new home with enough space for her rescue horse, she was disturbed by the number of tethered dogs she saw just outside Columbia’s city limits. 

“There was a Husky chained to the tree. It was the middle of August. No water, just dry dirt all around it, jumping up and down, yanking its neck at the end of a chain,” she recalls. “I’ve told this story multiple times, but it’s the honest truth; that was my destiny. I wanted to get help for that dog, and I just couldn’t find help.”  

Whitworth acted. First working with a Virgina-based anti-chaining organization, in 2015, Whitworth transitioned to her own 501(c)(3) called Unchained Melodies. The name is a play on words from Whitworth’s first name and the organization’s mission to advocate for chained and penned dogs and rehome those dogs into responsible, loving, permanent families.  

“What we’re fighting against is dogs that live tethered in some form,” she said. “These dogs are out there day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. They live their entire lives at the end of a tether.” 

Whitworth uses chains when describing tethers because chains are most often used for dogs tethered for an extended amount of time after the dog has learned how to break away from other materials. It’s common for Whitworth to see dogs’ chains padlocked to prevent further mobility.  

“When a dog is initially tethered to a tree, it’s yappy and barking. It’s jumping around going crazy asking ‘Why am I out here?’ and then little by little, the dog just stops barking because no one comes,” said Whitworth. “After a while, the dog becomes very withdrawn and depressed; that to me is abuse.” 

Unchained Melodies may work with neglectful dog owners for years before an animal is relinquished. Every owner signs a release upon turning over their dog. The Missouri Department of Agriculture monitors the nonprofit to ensure all animals are lawfully collected. 

New dogs in Unchained Melodies’ custody are rehabilitated and trained as needed. Until adoption, most dogs live in foster homes. Some more challenged dogs live at the 5,000-square-foot training facility Unchained Melodies moved into in 2018. 

Unchained Melodies rescue, rehabilitation, and rehome program directly helps about 200 dogs annually. The outreach has assisted tens of thousands of dogs throughout Missouri.  

“We have very low numbers compared to other organizations because of the training and rehabilitation we do,” Whitworth said. “We don’t push the dogs through the training. They move at their own pace. When they’re ready, they’re ready.”  

Whitworth is Unchained Melodies’ sole full-time employee. A team of subcontractors, trainers, and volunteers supports her. Through Whitworth’s passion, Unchained Melodies’ mission has spread throughout the state, especially to Southern Missouri, where much of the nonprofit’s work has happened over the past few years.  

Whitworth has taken her passion to the Capitol, advocating for the writing of HB 2450, which “establishes the offense of unlawful tethering or chaining.” Along with volunteers, Whitworth supported the bill in January at the Capitol. Whitworth is familiar with this type of advocacy, having been a key player in Columbia’s 2018 amended animal tethering ordinance.  

She said Unchained Melodies feels well-respected in the community and supported by community partners including Animal Control, the Columbia Police Department, and the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, among others. Whitworth especially feels community love during CoMo Gives, an annual online fundraiser that supports high-impact nonprofits in Columbia and mid-Missouri. As a nonprofit solely dependent on private donations, annual giving programs are incredibly beneficial.  

Columbia also benefits from Unchained Melodies’ other programs open to the entire community. Six-week training courses, specialized weekend workshops, and social hours are among the programs available to help train dogs and their owners on dog behavior.  

“People used to drive by and say, ‘Oh, poor dog, I wish there was something I could do.’ Now they know there is something they can do,” Whitworth explained. “They can reach out to us.” 

Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue

Founded: 2015  

Mission Statement: Unchained Melodies rescues, rehabilitates, and rehomes chained, penned, and abused dogs that have no voice. We fight for stronger laws and have many programs that benefit our community.

Ways to Volunteer 

  • Walking and working with dogs at the training facility, performing light cleaning and washing dishes, and more. 
  • Helping with adoption, fundraising, and outreach events throughout the year. 
  • Helping with administrative tasks like data entry or follow-up phone calls to adopters. 
  • Helping transport dogs to and from the vet for spay/neuter surgeries and other medical needs or picking up dogs who need help reaching their foster homes.  
  • Volunteer in the puppy nursery by feeding, walking, and cleaning up after the mommas and babies. 
  • Become a foster home. In order to rescue dogs, UMDR needs foster homes willing to provide a temporary home while our dogs await adoption. 

Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue
P.O. Box 7018 Columbia, MO 65205

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