Mind Over Miller: Return to Willow Lane

Mind Over Miller: Return to Willow Lane

Find out how Dr. Miller’s former practice came full circle after his transition from clinician to client.
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Aug 01, 2014

In the early days of my veterinary career, I practiced out of my modest home on Willow Lane. Then, down the line, I finally opened an office for small-animal practice in a rented facility. No longer limited to house calls, the practice grew rapidly. Soon an associate joined me, Dr. Bob Kind, who became a partner a year later and remained a partner as well as a treasured friend until I retired from practice.

The little house on Willow Lane, as it looked in 1958. Although I did house calls, once the local population learned where I lived, they would often show up unannounced at the house. This included clients with horses, dogs, cats, and—because we had a large population of exotic species used for movies—even lions (on a leash), ostriches, chimpanzees, and so on.

Together, we borrowed money from our families, purchased a lot on our town’s main street, and eventually built a hospital there. In 1967 it was awarded “Hospital of the Year” by Veterinary Economics magazine. We had come a long way from the little house on Willow Lane.

Forty-six years later, I found myself a client of my former practice, which had now grown to a staff of 14 veterinarians.

The Conejo Valley Veterinary Clinic, Veterinary Economics' 1967 Hospital of the Year and home to the practice until 2014.

Then I learned that they had outgrown the previous facility, and in 2014 they would be in a new state-of-the-art hospital.

“Really?” I asked. “Where will it be?”

“On Willow Lane,” I was told.

The town of 1,250 people I had moved to in 1957 was now a city of 127,000. One hundred times larger! And the new hospital was going to be located on the same street I had lived on back in my house call days. Willow Lane! Remarkable! None of the original staff even knew that the practice had begun there.

The little house my wife, Debby, and I had lived in as newlyweds is still there. It is now unoccupied. But down the street is the new 17,000-square-foot Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital!

Back on Willow Lane, the new Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital is huge. Now that I'm a client rather than one of the owners, I get lost in it. Fortunately, I usually have a dog with me to guide me back to my car.

Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his website at robertmmiller.com.