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Mind Over Miller: Practical jokes, Tucson style


Dr. Robert M. Miller reminisces about trading practical jokes with a past schoolmate.

My veterinary schoolmate Walter Cole pulled a nasty practical joke on me nearly three decades ago. I received a scrawled letter. It read:

Dear Doctor Miller,

I am sure you remember Pal. You first saw him to vaccinate him when he was just a puppy. Well, Pal is old now, like me. He is 14, and the local vet says he has chronic kidney disease and nothing can be done for him except a special diet. We have been feeding it, but he gets worse, and the vet says he is youremic and can't be helped. I know you can save him, so I am sending him to you.


Dr. Cole lived in Tucson and I suspected that this was one of his pranks. A week later, I was notified by the railroad station in Oxnard that a cage with a dog in it had been shipped to me.

Rather exasperated, I drove 25 miles to Oxnard to find a cage with a toy dog in it and a note that said "Gotcha!"

Long afterward, I drove to Tucson with my family to see my parents. As we drove, I said, "I have to get even with Walter. I have to pull something on him while I'm in Tucson."

Laurel, my 13-year-old daughter, piped up, "He doesn't know me. Why don't I make an appointment for him to see Molly. I'll tell him that I want a puppy vaccinated and that I have no money."

Molly was our aging Australian shepherd. "Brilliant," I said. A veterinarian's daughter knows exactly what it means when a child brings a pet in without the presence of an adult.

Accordingly, when we arrived in Tucson, I telephoned to find out if Walter would be seeing patients the next morning, which was Saturday. I explained to the receptionist that I was planning a practical joke to get even with him.

"Oh, good!" she said, and arranged a 9 a.m. appointment.

The next morning, my daughter, sloppily dressed, brought old Molly into the office. Laurel, who was chewing bubble gum, said, "A man gave me this puppy, and she needs shots."

The cooperative receptionist showed them into an exam room, and after Walter entered, she signaled to me and my wife, who were hiding outside. We entered and stood on each side of the exam room door and listened to the conversation within. What my daughter said was entirely her own idea.

Walter: "Well, young lady, what have we here?"

Laurel: "New puppy. A guy gave him to us, and she needs shots and whatever. My dad gave me 10 bucks to cover the cost."

Walter: "Well, first of all, this isn't a pup. This is an older dog."

Laurel: "Na-ah! The man said!"

Walter: (Laughs) "No, I'm afraid I'm right. See these yellow teeth. That shows she is an older dog."

Laurel: "Yeah? OK! My dad has teeth like that so maybe you are right."

At this point, Debby and I are choking with laughter, trying to be quiet.

Walter: "Where is your dad? Can he come in?"

Laurel: "Nah! He's across the street having a beer. Once he starts, you can't get him to leave."

My wife and I are now strangling.

Walter: "How about your mom. Is she available?"

Laurel: "Nah! She ran off with my schoolteacher."

Debby and I are now in tears, struggling to be silent.

Walter: "Aah! I need to talk to my receptionist. I'll be right back."

At this point, the exam room door opened, and Walter stepped out. Seeing us, he cried, "Hey! Hi! What are you guys doing here?"

Then, as realization set in, he ignored the crowded waiting room and bellowed, "You got me, you son of a b**ch!"

Walter is retired now and still living in Tucson. I genuinely fear what will happen after he reads this column.

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 atrobertmmiller.com.

Dr. Robert M. Miller

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