This past September, my wife, Debby, and I celebrated our 56th wedding anniversary. I arranged for a surprise three-day, two-night
trip to Catalina Island. This beautiful place is only 20 miles away from Los Angeles, but it felt more like several thousand
miles—as if we were somewhere in the Greek islands.
I met Debby when I was a senior veterinary student at a school rodeo at what was then Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University).
I was judging the calf roping, and Debby won the barrel racing.
I hesitated asking her for a date because she looked so young—like a teenager. After all, could a nearly 30-year-old soon-to-be
DVM and a World War II veteran date a teenager?
Then I learned she was a senior who had recently transferred from a Texas school and was due to graduate with a bachelor's
degree at the same time I finished veterinary school. That was three months after the school rodeo. I thought, "I'd better
ask her for a date!"
I did, and by the time graduation came, we were planning marriage the following September. Was it too impetuous? Of course!
But we found that we had very important compatibilities: A profound love of animals; the same value system of decency, honesty,
and unpretentiousness; the love of nature and the out-of-doors; and a desire for a rural lifestyle. Above all, I found her
to be kind—the human quality I value above all others.
But was she suitable for a veterinarian's spouse? The test came shortly before graduation. The veterinary school held an open
house, with all kinds of interesting exhibits. One of these was a large Holstein cow with an open rumenostomy.
Through a window in the cow's left flank, you could look into the rumen and see the food churning and digesting. A flashlight
was provided for spectators to observe the digestive process.
Debby came as my guest. I handed her the flashlight, and as she peered into the dark and odorous recesses of the rumen, the
cow coughed. A great spatter of rumen contents exploded out of the rumenostomy window, splattering my girlfriend's face and
That did it! This was the girl for me!
I'm requesting that this column be published for Valentine's Day. (It will save me the cost of a card because I intend to
surprise Debby with it, along with the box of dark chocolates with almonds she is addicted to.)
Valentine's Day also happens to be my daughter's birthday, so Happy Birthday, Laurel! (Another card saved.)
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
Robert M. Miller, DVM