Maggie Kirn,

Maggie Kirn,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Sept. 10 1998 3:30 AM

Maggie Kirn,

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       When I was five months pregnant, we killed our dog, a big, black, untrainable shelter mutt from Billings who liked to jump up and butt strangers with his forehead. I went to sleep last night thinking of him.
       It was a still, warm day, the kind you need to spray weeds, and Walt and I got in the pickup (a 1 ton Ford) to drop some 2-4-D off in an alfalfa field. We were in a hurry and didn't see Miles when he jumped in front of the truck. Running over him felt no different than running over a speed bump, except right after it happened my stomach heaved like it had throughout my first trimester. I was screaming when we bailed out of the cab. Walt was screaming. Miles was screaming. Rupert, our oldest dog, started frantically attacking his wounded brother. I had to kick him to get him off, something I've never done before or since. Miles found a patch of grass, lay down, and fixed his eyes forward.
       I work with vets all the time. I run the Humane Society in our town and spend hours each day taking animals in for care, retrieving records, examining injuries. I knew Miles was gone as we loaded his body into the truck and set out for the animal hospital. Still, we set off for town, driving 95 mph down the interstate in an intensely sad frenzy. During the ride his head rested on my just-showing belly, bumping up and down on the baby as we hit frost heaves in the pavement.
       By the time we arrived, I was in a half-wild state. I ran into the waiting room, surrounded by people who on most days are my colleagues, and started yelling, "Please help!" again and again and again. Two vet-techs carried Miles into the hospital, in a fake rush, shooting each other knowing looks. It's a look I myself have given before, when I know somebody's pet is dead, but I pretend there's a smidgen of a chance it'll survive.
       He was dead, and declared so by the veterinarian, a kind young man who inherited the practice from his father, my family's vet when I was a child.
       Miles' ashes sit in an ugly plastic box on top of our wood stove. Every night I swear I'll scatter them in the morning. But each spot I imagine spreading them over seems too flawed to be his final resting place. The fields look too brown and dry this time of year. The Shields River is muddy from irrigation runoff. We talk about burying Miles with his beloved sofa--a beautiful green velvet couch we had shipped from ABC in New York--but Walt and I are both too busy to find time to dig a hole big enough for the two of them.
       Tomorrow, if it's warm enough, I'll put on my ugly maternity bathing suit, go down to the little creek behind the house, and join him in the icy water for one last swim.

Maggie Kirn is a pregnant writer living on a ranch in Livingston, Mont. She is also president of the local Humane Society.