Mind Over Miller: The Late Show, with Dr. Miller


Dr. Robert Miller makes a special appearance with Dave Letterman.

A colleague telephoned me one evening from North Carolina while my wife and I were having dinner. "Dr. Miller," she gasped, laughing hysterically. "Do you watch the Letterman show on TV?"

"No. He comes on at 11, and that's when I go to sleep," I explained.

"Well watch it tonight. You're on it!"

She was gone before I could get an explanation.

The Letterman show apparently goes on an hour earlier in northern California because, around 10:30 that night, my daughter called from the San Francisco Bay area.

Robert M. Miller, DVM

"Dad!" she said laughing uncontrollably. "Watch the Letterman show. You're on it."

"Yes, I heard," I replied. "How can I possibly be on the Letterman show?"

"Just watch it," she giggled. "It's unbelievable!"

On that evening's show, a half dozen how-to videos on a variety of subjects were shown, and then, without explanation, a brief scene was shown out of context. It looked senseless, and Letterman's remarks were entirely inappropriate and very funny.

The first video I had ever made, many years earlier, was titled "Influencing the Horse's Mind." It demonstrated several methods of quickly shaping or modifying an equine patient's behavior, including flooding, counter-conditioning, diversion, habituation, and imprinting the neonatal foal.

One of the subjects was a "goosey" horse that would not allow its perineal area or the base of its tail to be touched. It was, therefore, impossible to take its rectal temperature.

In the video, I demonstrated how, using counter-conditioning, I could quickly extinguish its habitual swift aversive movement to the side when the area is touched.

Then, using progressive desensitization, I gently start to massage under the horse's tail. This was the point when, with no explanation, the Letterman show began my video. The hind end of the horse is presented to the camera. I am holding the tail with one hand and massaging the anal area with my other hand.

Then I say, "I have yet to find a horse that, when this area is rubbed, will not soon relax and elevate its tail."

Soon, the tail begins to raise, and I say "See?"

That's all they showed, with no explanation that I was preparing the patient for a thermometer.

The audience collapsed in laughter. Letterman made a hilarious and inappropriate remark, and my wife and I joined the audience (and millions of TV viewers) in laughter.

Thank goodness that, although he mentioned my name, he omitted the title "Dr." and the fact that I was a veterinarian. If he had, it may have embarrassed the entire profession.

As it was, millions of people must have been left thinking, "Wow, there are sure some weird people in California."

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 website at robertmmiller.com.

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