In the 1950s, I was a solo mixed-animal practitioner. Consequently, I was on emergency duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
So when my bride and I were invited to a Halloween party, we went in my practice station wagon, which was fully equipped for
I decided to wear a simple costume because there was a good chance I would be called away. I wore ordinary street clothes
but put a hangman's noose—made from a rope I carried in my car to truss up large-animal patients—around my neck. Then I blacked
out several teeth and painted a stream of fake blood coming from one nostril and a corner of my mouth. Lastly, I put on a
pair of crazy-looking spectacles.
The party was well under way when, inevitably, the telephone rang. "It's for you, Dr. Miller," the host said.
The caller wasn't a client, but she had a colicky horse and couldn't get ahold of her usual veterinarian. I got directions
to her ranch in Triunfo Canyon, removed the rope and glasses, and drove off.
When I arrived at the ranch, a woman came out of the house and walked up to my station wagon before I could get out. She started
to speak, "We think...Oh no! What happened?"
I had forgotten about the teeth and nosebleed! The poor woman thought I had been in an accident on the way to the ranch. "Are
you all right?" she gasped.
"Yes," I assured her, "but how is the horse?"
The horse recovered. While treating it, I explained that I had been at a Halloween party.
"Oh!" she said. "Is that why your teeth, um, I mean, the blood...."
It was then that I realized I looked more critical than the horse!
Somebody had photographed me early in the evening. I sent a copy of the photo to the woman with the colicky horse, saying
that I was glad I had removed the rope and glasses.
Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker, and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member from Thousand Oaks, Calif. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years
as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his Web site at
Dr. Robert M. Miller