Puppies roam free at yoga fundraising event

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People bent over backward to pet puppies and support a local nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing penned dogs on Sunday.

Yoga Gives CoMo and Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue worked together to host their first Charity Puppy Yoga at the MU Human Performance Institute.

Whitney Wright, a volunteer for Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue, created the event with her friend Katie Wear Schutte, a yoga instructor and founder of Yoga Gives CoMo. Participants at the sold-out event enjoyed an afternoon of exercise and relaxation, while puppies roamed freely about.

“We got more of a response than we expected. We sold 60 tickets in five days,” Wright said.

Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue frees confined dogs and places them in foster care until they find the perfect permanent home. Volunteers, like Wright, may foster multiple dogs at a time and the application process ensures the dogs find the best possible home. The rescue strives to spread awareness about dog cruelty and get the animals to safer conditions.

During the hourlong session, a special "puppy playlist" accompanied the exercise with the hopes of calming the four-legged yogis. It’s hard to say how well it worked. Volunteers were busy chasing after most of the puppies from the start, although a couple of sleepy hounds found comfort and some shut-eye on yoga mats.

“They did a great job of making sure the puppies did different things and went around the room,” said Haley Horstman, an attendee.

A litter of seven Labrador-pitbull mix puppies and two six-month-old dogs of the same breed chased each other around the studio and occasionally stopped to distract the nearest participant. Although the yoga was a workout, many breaks were needed to pet the puppies, take pictures and clean up after them.

“I think I might be getting more of a workout than (the participants),” Wright said.

The litter was rescued at the start of January after being abandoned on the side of a road in Fulton, Wright said. Adoption applications have been submitted for five of the seven puppies in the rescued litter. Wright and the other volunteers hoped the yoga event would help get adoption applications for all the dogs.

Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue, Wright said, "does a wonderful job of making sure they’re fitting the best dog with your family."

All proceeds from the yoga event will be given to the rescue. The organization's mission is to help every chained or abused dog find a safe home. The yoga event raised over $800 for future rescues and expenses, in addition to collecting numerous leashes, collars and toys.

Yoga Gives CoMo regularly organizes charity events to support local organizations while bringing people together with yoga, fitness and health. It strives to make Columbia a more active and charitable place, according to its Facebook page.

Wright and Schutte plan to organize more puppy yoga events to raise money and awareness for Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue.

Supervising editor is Gary Garrison.

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