Some people are dog people, some people are cat people, and some people look at the other people and think Why would you do that to yourself? as they hop onto a plane for yet another holiday without having to worry about who’s going to look after the pets. I totally get that, I really do. Sip an extra mojito and remember me while you’re on your trip, won’t you?
For the last twenty years I’ve very much been in the dog people camp, with the last few years seeing our family enhanced by a goofy White Shepherd named Hunter. Not only is a fifty-kilo Alsatian a fairly vocal deterrent to trespassers, but he brings an extra incentive to exercise and get outdoors every day to a household filled with sedentary desk-jockeys, he’s our ever present white wolf who deigns to live with humans, and he only sheds twice a year – for six months at a time, enveloping our home’s interior in a low white cloud of dog fluff.
Walks are more than the local park, and so while I might enjoy an occasional pre-dawn McDonald’s coffee to accompany some early writing, he’d occasionally accompany me and be rewarded for his troubles with a hash brown, which seems to be the dog equivalent of catnip. I suppose it’s only natural we want our pets to live The Good Life.
Unfortunately, Hunter hasn’t been on a McDonalds outing with me for the last three or four months. In December we took him to The Beach – the only other place even more exciting than McDonalds – and he promptly lost his canine mind. It had been a while, and so there was no way he was prepared to stay at heel, behave himself on his leash, or otherwise remember any part of how to behave around humans. He had to get to the water now, thank you very much, and at any cost. Holding him back while we navigated other humans in the car park resulted in me pulling something in my left shoulder, the Mrs being bruised, and an amusing if heavy and slightly intimidating spectacle for everyone else.
And then we went home, and I got back to the sedentary desk-jockey work of writing every day.
I don’t know if this event was the exact cause, but it almost certainly seems to have been. Over the next month, I found that while I felt completely normal, whenever I extended my left arm to reach for something, my shoulder complained with agonising, crippling pain. Gradually that range of movement decreased, and as muscles in the neck and upper shoulder tried to pick up the slack, occasional acute pain in the shoulder became a chronic ache there. Finishing the draft, starting on editing, a bit of anxiety over how to go about it all, and sleep became elusive for a good couple of weeks.
A visit to my local medical professional diagnosed Adhesive Capsulitis – otherwise known as a Frozen Shoulder – and a prognosis of “Wait it out for six to twenty-four months, oh and there’s a steroid injection if you want a little relief, maybe, because it’s not always effective”.
Having never heard of Frozen Shoulder before (as far as I can remember), now that I have a name for it I find talking to others about it yields a common response along the lines “Oh, Frozen Shoulder? Yeah, I had that way back when, such a pain!” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – I do tend to live under a rock most of the time.
I can count my blessings, though: Shoulder injuries can be much worse. So, while it’s annoying to only be able to sleep a couple hours at a time before having to move and alleviate the pain, at least I can sleep, and am rested enough to get some work done during the day. I’ve found this to be the case before, too: Simply knowing the name of the problem, what’s involved in living with it, and the likely outcomes I find of huge benefit when it comes to managing anxiety: Oh, that’s what it is, and this is what I do? Okay, I’ll (try to) stop thinking about it now…
And I guess the long term outcomes for others aren’t all bad either. The dog gets more walks from other family members (they get more exercise too, but don’t tell them that), and I can eventually be one of those people who says “Oh, Frozen Shoulder? Yeah, I had that way back when, such a pain!”