This is Arwen, at the park.
The little orange blur by her paws, near the bottom of the frame, is her beloved orange ball. She's dropped it at my feet and wants me to throw it.
''So?'' you might ask. ''What's the big deal? Isn't that what most dogs do, especially retrievers?''
Well yes. At least she used to.
Over the last year or so, she got into the habit of coming to me with her ball and offering it up, but when I went to take it, she refused to let go of it. She did not want to give it up. I was puzzled, and a bit frustrated, but I didn't really stop to analyze why her behaviour changed. I just kept throwing balls for Nutmeg, and the odd time that Arwen would surrender her ball, she got a throw as well.
In hindsight, I realized that my little dog was indeed telling me something. Her back legs were excruciatingly painful, especially when she ran after balls to fetch them. Her instinct and passion for retrieving were still as strong as ever, but she knew that giving me the ball meant it would be thrown and she couldn't bear the pain. She was telling me this and I missed the memo completely.
Over the last couple of weeks, she's been depositing the ball at my feet again. While it fills my heart with joy to know she is feeling better, I am at the same time filled with sorrow, regret, and guilt for not having understood what she was trying so hard to tell me.