Buzz Miller has evolved — from legal to beagle.
Miller founded PACT for Animals, a nonprofit that finds foster homes for pets of service members and more. His next project will pair animals with retirement-community residents.
Miller, 74, retired as a lawyer and businessman and founded PACT for Animals, a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania nonprofit that will find a foster home for your pet.
PACT for Animals matches your companion animal with a foster family if you are heading off to serve in the military, have a long-term health crisis, or enter a hospital. And it’s free.
Miller’s next animal adventure? Working with retirement communities whose residents, he says, “would be perfect to serve as fosters for animals.”
“People over 55 are perfect: They’re settled, they probably don’t want to raise animals for another 20 years, but they can handle short-term companionship. And they don’t have kids.”
A West Philadelphia native, Miller graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and University of Pennsylvania Law School, then received a master’s degree in tax law.
In the 1970s, he was a swinging single lawyer who didn’t want to settle down – until he met his girlfriend’s dog.
Then everything changed.
When they split, Miller gave the ex-girlfriend his car and “bribed” her two sons with a television and a motorcycle. Miller kept the canine.
“That’s when I learned about the human- animal bond,” he remembers.
By 2007, Miller had married and made enough money to retire. He and his wife, Judi, opened a retail pet store on the Main Line, Buzzy’s BowWowMeow, specializing in free adoptions of shelter dogs and cats.
Ultimately, they sold the Narberth business to focus fully on nonprofit work. (Buzzy’s is now a Doggie Style store.) In 2010, they formed the nonprofit PACT for Animals, part of which stands for People + Animals = Companions Together (pactforanimals.org).
The inspiration: A friend of Miller’s elderly mother adopted a mixed breed named CiCi headed for euthanasia. The woman had just lost her husband, and her daughter had cancer.
“That little miracle dog made her life worth living, turned her mental state around completely. CiCi showered her with unconditional love during her time of profound grief,” he says.
Today, PACT for Animals offers assistance all over the country.
“People drive and fly their companion animals from as far as California, Texas, Florida, and Idaho,” Miller says, in order for their pets to be placed in PACT’s more than 150 approved foster homes in the Philadelphia area.
Foster families sign a contract promising good care; PACT pays expenses and veterinary bills.
Foster parents are “usually middle-class people. They aren’t the people who live around here in Gladwyne,” Miller says, laughing, in the basement of his house – PACT’s offices – with his employees, many of whom are undergraduates at Bryn Mawr College.
“Every home in this neighborhood is worth a million bucks – all of them could take a healthy animal. But people with money rarely volunteer to foster our dogs and cats.
“But,” he adds with a wink, “they can write checks.”
By 2015, PACT had doubled in size: number of animals fostered, to more than 300; paid employees, four; volunteers, more than 45, who check foster-home quality and take pictures of the animals to send to their humans.
Miller and his wife live in an expansive house with a parrot, several cats, and a few dogs. Recently, Miller and his wife felt the pain of losing Chloe, one of their favorite dogs.
“Chloe was by my side for the last 10 years. Her love and cheerfulness sustained me on a daily basis through a world which gets uglier, sadder and more superficial,” he says.
“She was my rock through daily heartaches. I learned years ago never walk out of your front door without telling all those you love, both two- and four-legged, how much you care for them. It reminded me that the sudden loss of a loved one can occur any time,” Miller says, with tears in his eyes.
In the fourth quarter of his life, Miller knows he’s more interested in helping other people and their animal companions than in “chasing such goals as big money and power, which I sometimes was driven by in my legal and business career.”
PACT became a national organization faster than Miller anticipated.
“We are the only group really solving this problem with each family, each foster, and with each companion animal we save,” he says.
Today, he and his wife want for nothing material, he says.
“That gives me the freedom to continue my life’s mission – the human-animal bond. I am at an age when so many of my friends are leaving. The time to do my most important work is now.”