As we age, we tend to be unaware of our advancing years. Even as we stiffen and suffer aches and pains, we still think of
ourselves as young. Oh, sometimes we'll look in mirrors or view recent photographs and react with surprise, "Is that me? I
look so old!" But every once in a while something happens that makes us really aware that we are aging. I can think of three
such milestones in my life.
The first milestone was in 1962 when I was at a veterinary conference in San Diego. A group of us professional men (in 1962,
veterinarians were men, with rare exceptions) were in the hotel pool, eagerly sharing practice experiences and observations.
Suddenly, a young woman of about 18 years in a bikini approached the pool and poised at its edge. All conversation stopped;
attention was silently directed toward the newcomer. When she dived into the pool, we all looked at each other. Being gentlemen,
nobody said anything, but a few eyebrows were raised appreciatively. Soon our conversations resumed, and after talking a while
longer, we dispersed and began swimming. As I was swimming underwater, I bumped into somebody. I stood up. It was the young
"Oh," she said, "I'm terribly sorry, sir."
Sir? Sir? I was only 35, and suddenly, I was aware of it.
I reached another milestone five years later. I had received an emergency call from the highway patrol: An injured horse was
lying close to the road, and drivers were stopping to look and causing traffic to back up. When I reached the scene and drove
closer to the crowd of people and vehicles, a voice cried out, "Here comes Old Doc Miller! Old Doc Miller will fix him up."
Old Doc Miller? I was 40!
Recently—I'm 77 as I write this—I received a call from a 56-year-old colleague with a difficult case: a dog with necrotizing
dermatitis on its paws. The culture results were positive for Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas, but the dog had not responded to the indicated antibiotics. The dog's toes looked gangrenous, and the caller was desperate
to save the dog.
"The reason I'm calling you," he explained, "is that nothing modern has worked. I thought maybe you knew of some old-time treatment I could try."
I told the caller that I had heard of a treatment—soaking the dog's paws in a copper sulfate solution—but that it predated
my early 1950s schooling. I learned about this treatment early in my career when I phoned an older colleague for advice on
a similar case, explaining, "Nothing I learned in school has worked, but I thought you might know of some old-time treatment!" ?
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