I wonder what would happen if a squirrel 30 feet up a tree suddenly looked back and thought, Shit that’s a long way down. I’m hanging here by my toenails. Or, midleap between tall branches understands, I’m defying gravity. He looks at his landing zone and realizes, That little twig? That’ll never hold me.
My dog Cleo is having a crisis of confidence. Rearing back to hop into the back seat of the truck, she reconsiders. That’s too high. Backs up. Then puts her paws on the door ledge hoping maybe she could just pull herself up, one end at a time. But from this pose it’s completely impossible. Straining on her back legs, her body is fully stretched vertical. Defeated, she’s back on all fours. The only way up is one terrific leap: full commitment, vaulting herself high into the truck. There is no room for doubt or hesitation. And once airborne, there’s no turning back.
I know what she feels like. It’s kind of like driving at at 55 mph. You can’t think about what impact at this speed would be like. You just have stay on your side of the road and believe you can do this.
She’s hopped into the truck before. Does she not remember? Did she hurt herself last time? Or do her aging legs feel incapable of their former spring? My husband doesn’t want me to hoist her up. He wants her to remember she can fly. Every day she snatches the Frisbee out of the air, never thinking, That’s way too far up; I’ll never make it.
She skitters back and forth in front of the truck door, alternating tensing for flight and retreating. I pat the seat, encouraging her.
I remember when she was a puppy nine years ago teaching her how to jump into the back seat of my car. “Like this,” I said, taking a leap headfirst into my car, my hands landing on the seat first and then my knees between them. She looked at me quizzically. “Now you,” I said, getting out. Something apparently clicked. In a smooth motion she sprang into the car. That seat was not nearly as tall as this truck’s, though.
“Do you need me to show you?” I ask, bluffing. “We’re trying to be brave, this week, remember?” I stand back. With one sproing she’s in. “Next time maybe it’ll be easier,” I tell her, though I’m not thinking about her anymore.