After spending a couple of years just doing house calls, I rented a 500-square-foot office, practiced there for nine years,
and had to rent adjacent space because of the growth of our practice. By the ninth year, we had a three-doctor practice and
built a new hospital, which won the Veterinary Economics Hospital of the Year Award in 1967.
Robert M. Miller, DVM
Our main street, Thousand Oaks Boulevard, was so named—like our town—because its narrow, two-lane winding course was lined
with magnificent old oak trees.
Because of community growth, it was necessary to widen the main street to accommodate four lanes. In order to do this, sadly,
most of these trees had to be removed.
Dr. Miller poses by one of the smaller oak trees (above), as well as a stouter oak tree that is popular with the canine clients
of Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital (below).
Still, the name of the town is Thousand Oaks. So new little oak trees were planted down the entire length of Thousand Oaks
Boulevard. This was more than a half century ago.
Today, some of those trees are quite large, but, curiously, others are quite stunted—a fraction of the size of others. For
decades I have wondered how the same trees, all planted at the same time and getting the same amount of water in the same
environment, could differ so profoundly.
I mean, some of the trunks are a foot and a half in diameter, while others nearby are only a couple of inches thick. For even
greater contrast, a 200-year-old oak, one of the largest on the street, is right in front of our hospital; a tree only yards
away is a spindly pathetic thing. It's like the difference between a year-old Saint Bernard and a year-old Chihuahua.
The other day, while I was driving past the Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital, the explanation became clear. Fifty years of
perplexity was solved in an instant.
The parking lot was full. One client was returning to his car carrying a cat cage. Another was leading a golden retriever
to the front door. They stopped by one of the oak trees. One of the big trees. The dog urinated on that tree. It was closer to the front door than the little tree!
At last! A diagnosis!
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