Mind Over Miller: Will the real Dr. Miller please stand up?
This column originally appeared in the July 2006 issue of Veterinary Medicine.
In Thousand Oaks, Calif., my hometown, there is another Robert Miller, a retired engineer, and I feel sorry for him. He gets calls from all over the country intended for me. Most of the calls are from people seeking advice on how to housebreak a dog or trying to find a camp for disabled children that they can donate their horse to. When I first moved to Thousand Oaks in 1957, there was a deputy sheriff named Bob Miller. He also got a lot of telephone calls at odd hours. One time he asked me what a retained placenta was.
There have been Bob Millers everywhere I have ever been. Most have been used car salesmen; one was the governor of Nevada. I will never forget the days I spent in an airplane hanger in Bremerhaven, Germany, waiting with thousands of other soldiers for a ship to take us home. Over the loudspeaker came a long list of names, each one generating a joyous yelp of "Yo!"
Then the voice said, "Robert Miller."
Half a dozen voices responded, "Yo!"
The voice clarified, "Robert M. Miller."
Two voices shouted, "Yo!"
"Four two two four seven one three zero" the voice boomed.
"Yo!" I cried. "That's my number. Yo!"
Robert Miller is a common name in veterinary medicine as well. There are 13 Robert Millers listed in the AVMA directory but only seven John Smiths and not one Joe Blow. During President Jimmy Carter's administration, when inflation hit 20%, I received a call from Robert L. Miller, DVM:
"Hi, this is Bob Miller down in Fallbrook. Hey, are your laboratory fees going down?"
"Heck no!" I replied. "They're going up like everything else."
"That's funny," he said, "because I've been paying your fees!"
A couple of years ago at a major veterinary conference, a colleague approached me. "We've never met," he said, "but I love your articles and cartoons. I sure wish I could go on your Alaskan fishing trip."
"What fishing trip?" I asked.
"The one at your lodge in Alaska," he replied.
"I don't have a lodge in Alaska," I whined, "and I'm not planning a fishing trip."
The colleague looked puzzled. "But you're Bob Miller, aren't you?" he asked. "I received your mailer about the trip."
"To Alaska?" I asked. "I'm afraid you have me confused with another Bob Miller."
This same scene took place four times in two days. The last time it was an old friend, Dr. Rex Hinshaw from Arizona, who asked me about the fishing trip. Once I explained that I wasn't organizing the trip, he agreed to send me the flyer if he still had it. A few days later I received a flyer describing a wonderful fishing trip at Land's End Lodge in Point Baker, Alaska. Robert J. Miller, DVM, of Preston, Idaho, owned the lodge. I wrote a long letter to my namesake suggesting that since he was using my name to solicit customers, he should cut me in for a percentage of the profits. In time, I got a telephone call:
"This is the real Bob Miller. I framed your letter and hung it on my wall."
This call led to a friendship and eventually to an invitation to speak at a veterinary conference at Land's End Lodge. So in August of 2005, I took a series of five flights, the last in a single-engine seaplane, to Point Baker, accompanied by my son and my 9-year-old grandson. The experience was unforgettable. Even if we hadn't caught any fish—but we did, including a 35-lb halibut and lots of salmon—the week would have been overwhelming. To enjoy the indescribably gorgeous scenery, the perfect weather, the camaraderie of a great group of colleagues, Pat Miller's wonderful cooking, and Bob Miller's gracious hospitality all in the company of my only son and only grandson was a great gift.
Have I ever mentioned who my clinic partner was when I was a student at Colorado State University? Yes, it was Bob Miller. To avoid confusion, I wasBob and he was Robert. Robert E. Miller, DVM, practiced for many years in Wyoming and Colorado.
I'm going to organize the BMVMA—the Bob Miller Veterinary Medical Association. If the Internal Revenue Service questions it, I'll explain that BM is a medical term and VMA is self-explanatory.