For People Living with Dystonia, February Has Gone to the Dogs

Press Release ( - CHICAGO - Feb 02, 2017 - 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, 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 families are longtime DMRF supporters and lead dystonia support groups in Freehold, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Virginia Bryan of New York adopted a lab mix she named Snoops. Bryan was misdiagnosed for over 20 years before being diagnosed with myoclonus-dystonia, a complex and debilitating movement disorder. “With Snoops, I am whole and calm,” she explains. “My dystonia symptoms are not a worry. I know we can handle the day ahead. My social and emotional and physical well-being have improved since Snoops has been by my side.” Bryan is a member of the DMRF’s Community Leadership Council.

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 fee for the Dogs for Dystonia Virtual Walk is $15. Instructions to participate can be found at A new feature of this year’s campaign is the Dogs for Dystonia blog ( where guest bloggers share what their dog means to them and how that special dog-human bond helps them cope with the challenges of dystonia.

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 or 800-377-DYST (3978).

Source : Dystonia Medical Research Foundation

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