Injured Playing with the Orange Retriever on Groundhog Day

Sweetie retrieves 1 I was injured at work. That may seem strange for someone who works from a home office, in front of a computer all day. But I could hardly sleep from the pain. Here’s how it happened.

I share my office with a retriever. I know people who have golden retrievers; we have an orange retriever.

This retriever likes to retrieve a small plastic toy. A smart inventor, who understands what cats like, can sell these little pieces of plastic (Cat Crazies) for about a 1000 percent markup because cats go crazy playing with them.

Sweetieretrieves2Our orange retriever, Sweetie Wildcat (her last name reflect her origin as a feral kitten, rescued from a fast food restaurant parking lot — but that’s another story), likes to retrieve Crazies. She comes to my desk, drops a Crazy on the floor by my chair, and whimpers until I throw it through the door of my office into the hall. She sprints after it, bats it around for a moment, picks it up, sprints back, drops it on the floor by my chair, and whimpers. She has the energy and impatience of most adolescents, and the fun is contagious and enjoyable.

Sweetieretrieves3 Without interference, we’ll repeat this process for 30-40 minutes, until Sweetie decides it’s time for a nap. Often we get interference in the form of Mist, our husky Himilayian-Siamese cat who hides just outside the door and leaps at the Crazy as it flies by. Mist and Sweetie scramble for the Crazy — if Mist gets it, she’ll will run off with it and Sweetie loses her toy. If Sweetie gets it, she’ll bring it back to run the gauntlet again.

Recently, I discovered that if I execute a hard and accurate toss, I can land the Crazy on our stairs, where it bounces downstairs chased by the orange retriever. Eventually Sweetie will catch the Crazy, play with it, and bring it back. I like the challenge of hitting the target with my throw. Sweetie likes the action of the Crazy bouncing down the steps. Unfortunately, a Crazy weighs almost nothing, so throwing it the 35 feet to the steps requires a big throwing action with precise aim.

Sweetieretrieves4 On this particular day, I woke up with a slight kink in my back that felt like a small knife stuck into the muscle under my right shoulder blade — I ignored it. Sweetie came around in the morning and we had a good retrieving session, with no interference from Mist. I was learning how to control the flight of the Crazy and was enjoying the effort of throwing it to the stairs. In the mid afternoon we spent about 30 minutes throwing and retrieving. Afterward, Sweetie fell asleep in the bed in the corner of my office and I worked.

At about 4pm I got up and felt a startling jolt of pain from a muscle in my back. I then realized that the hard throws from my office chair had stressed a muscle in my back — after I had ignored the warning from the small pain in the morning. Throwing while sitting in my office chair negates any power from my lower body and puts my shoulders perpendicular to the line of the throw, which is an unnatural motion. This stresses a large muscle under my right shoulder blade (torn in a kayaking injury on the Chatooga in 1982). The hard throws inflamed the muscle and I needed several days of hot-cold therapy on that area in my back.

And that’s how I got injured playing with the orange retriever.