February is Month of Puppy Love: Dogs for Dystonia Virtual Walk


Dogs for Dystonia is a nationwide campaign to educate the public about the difficulties faced by those living with dystonia, a little-known brain disorder, and to celebrate the important role that dogs play in helping people navigate life’s challenges. Throughout February—which ushers in the Year of the Dog per the Chinese zodiac—dog lovers are uniting in a Virtual Dog Walk to raise dystonia awareness and urgently-needed research funds for a cure. Proceeds benefit the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF).

Participants in this year’s campaign include Janice and Len Nachbar, who trained their five pound Pomeranian mix to be a service dog for adult daughter Joanna Manusov. Manusov’s dystonia is so severe it causes rigid, extreme muscle spasms in virtually every muscle on her petite frame. “A five and a half pound service dog? Yes, that's our Nicki,” says Len Nachbar. “Nicki is the gift that keeps on giving.” Nicki learned to anticipate when Joanna’s symptoms are escalating and will sit in her lap to calm her. The Nachbar/Manusov family are longtime DMRF supporters and founded dystonia support groups in Freehold, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Dee Linde of Oregon has a service dog named Violet, a black Labrador. Linde is a Navy veteran and retired mental health professional who developed dystonia in 1997. Violet assists Dee by retrieving objects and helping her upright when she falls. “When I’m having a bad day, Vi always manages to cheer me up by nuzzling, giving pupkisses—I love those pupkisses—or laying her head on me and letting me stroke her ears. This is so relaxing and de-stressing for both of us.” Linde has served on the Department of Defense (DOD)’s consumer review panel for dystonia research applications and has testified before the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee urging legislators to include dystonia in the DOD’s exclusive medical research program.

Dystonia is a chronic, often disabling, neurological disorder marked by extreme, involuntary muscle contractions that cause twisting, repetitive body movements and abnormal postures. Common signs include abnormal movements of the head and neck, excessive blinking, a breathy or choking voice, hand cramps, or a twisted foot. In addition to motor symptoms, individuals with dystonia frequently experience chronic pain, depression, and anxiety disorders. Conservative estimates suggest no fewer than 250,000 Americans are affected.

Registration for the Dogs for Dystonia Virtual Walk is $20. Instructions to participate can be found at https://www.dystonia-foundation.org/dogs. Individuals who register their dogs by February 16 (Chinese New Year) will be entered into a drawing to receive a bonus prize. 

The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is to advance research toward improved treatments and a cure, promote education and awareness, and provide support resources to affected individuals and families. More information is available at www.dystonia-foundation org or 800-377-DYST (3978).

Accelerating Research & Inspiring Hope

The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) has served the dystonia community since 1976. Join us in our global effort to find a cure.