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By Shirley Murtha
After 48 years with the Salmon Brook Veterinary Hospital, Dr. P. Morey Miller decided that the last day of 2016 would be the last day of his fulltime employment. As is typical of things in the veterinary world, it didn’t happen as quietly as he had planned. In the late afternoon of Dec. 31, as he patiently waited out the last few hours on call in the Small Animal Office, in came a dog with gastric torsion (bloat) requiring immediate life-saving surgery. The operation successfully completed and the patient resting comfortably, Miller was finally able to begin his new year and his new life.
Miller’s career was celebrated with a large gathering of colleagues and clients on Jan. 22, but in actuality, he is still keeping his hand in the practice two days a week doing herd checks on the area’s dairy farms. At one time a major part of veterinary work, these planned visitations have dwindled along with the once numerous dairy farms. In addition to checking the animals and giving routine vaccinations and pregnancy exams, the visits also provide a way to take stock of the overall condition of the farm. A dairy man at heart, Miller enjoys putting on the overalls and galoshes and continuing the tradition.
The road to Granby from his family farm in Towanda, Penn., began when Miller was in high school. As the youngest of three brothers, he realized he would not likely ever be the owner of the farm. When considering a career, he knew how much caring for animals was in his blood — “I already felt that I was a shepherd,” he notes — and decided he would become a veterinarian.
Having earned his B.S. in dairy science at Penn State in 1964 and his D.V.M. at the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell in 1968, he noticed a job opening at a practice in Granby, Conn. His advisor recommended the job to him, saying that the two veterinarians, Bob Milkey and Forrest Davis, were both very highly respected vets, although they did have “quite different personalities.” Miller wasn’t 100 percent sure he wanted to start his career being a mediator, “the man in the middle,” as he put it, but he joined up and never regretted his choice. In 1968, the practice was a mixed one, in which all three vets worked on all categories of animals. Today the practice has grown to have doctors who specialize in various animals and various kinds of veterinary care.
Miller notes that another difference in practicing veterinary medicine today is the vast array of diagnostic techniques, many automated and digitalized, that were laborious and time-consuming in his early days. For example, taking x-rays was a very difficult project that took hours, and blood work had to be sent to human hospitals for diagnosis.
Despite the advances in techniques, the practice of veterinary medicine, according to Miller, continues to be being the spokesperson for the animals — “finding the answers to the questions the animals would ask if they could.” Clinical symptoms have been, and probably always will be, the starting point.
Along with his career at Salmon Brook, Miller has developed and maintained a sizeable herd of dairy cows on his own farm on North Granby Road. While attending to the herd on the farm owned by the Colton family since the 1800s, Miller was told by Bill Colton that he was selling off the property in sections, but had not yet sold the house and barn and really wanted it to remain a dairy farm. “Why don’t you buy it?” Colton asked, leading Miller to discuss the possibility with his wife (he and Jane had married in 1972). With the help of a Farm Credit loan in 1974, the young couple became the owners of what is now Milborne Farm.
Starting his herd with a few cows he owned back on the family farm in Towanda, Miller’s herd has grown to about 40 milking cows and 30 calves and heifers. His interest in conformation and showing eventually led to a relationship with 4-H kids, now defined by a 30-year lease program to the organization. Eighteen youngsters come to his farm beginning in April; they work through the summer to be ready to show in the Hartford County 4-H fair held in August in Somers. Miller proudly notes that every year some of his kids qualify in Somers to show at the Eastern States in September.
Miller himself is still showing, as well. The high point of that came a few years back when his beautiful Guernsey, Faye, was Reserve Grand Champion at the World Dairy Exposition in Madison, Wisc. The following year, a busload of touring dairy people arrived at Miller’s farm to see the very special cow, an event that was reported in the Drummer.
Miller notes that retiring is bittersweet and takes some getting used to. He is already enjoying the time he now gets to spend with his grandchildren, but is glad that for a couple of days a week, he still plays a role in tending to the health of the area’s dairy herds.