Peace of mind for our troops overseas — Part 2

A military reunion

For nearly 35 years, Melvin “Buzz” Miller dedicated his life to making the rich richer and as one of the nation’s top business and real estate lawyers; it was obvious that he had a passion for the law. His lucrative practice enabled him to live very comfortably, wear designer suits, drive luxury automobiles and own beautiful homes. Unfortunately, like most people as they get older, he felt as if something was missing in his life. He was no longer excited about his work, yet he wanted to make a difference in the world while he still had the chance. His difference would be made in his main passion: “the human-animal bond.”

Miller always had a bond with his dogs but nothing like the one he had with his rescue dog, Max. For years, Max slept under Buzz’s desk at his law firm. Buzz found his stress was reduced, his blood pressure lowered and his overall well-being as an individual improved every time he would pet Max.

When Max passed away at age 19, Miller reflected on the life the two of them shared and how special it was to always be together.

His love for animals led him to become a life member of the PaSPCA but during a board meeting, a tour of the facility put him face to face with lines of young, healthy dogs being prepared for euthanasia. It is the sad reality of unwanted animals in a shelter. Miller dropped to the floor, sat down and cried like a baby. He knew what he had to do. Soon, he found himself holding fund raisers for several Delaware Valley animal shelters. He closed down his law practice in 2003 and focused on furthering the human-animal bond. In 2007, he opened Buzzy’s Bow Wow Meow in Narberth, Montgomery County; a holistic pet store where he also strived to educate the public on the human-animal bond.

Buzz learned of military personnel being deployed that were seen opening the doors to animal shelters with tears streaming down their face as they said goodbye to their best friend for the last time. For many servicemen, surrendering their pet to a shelter had been their only option. This was the catalyst needed for Miller to launch PACT’s Military Foster Program. Founded in 2010, PACT’s mission was to develop, implement and administer programs to benefit pets and their humans, but by 2011 their niche became a Military Foster Program.

Now a PA 501(c)(3)non-profit organization, PACT flyers are distributed and endorsed by the Pennsylvania National Guard to deploying soldiers as “an alternative to the unwanted surrender of beloved pets (dogs or cats).” Utilizing his business law experience, Miller drafted an application for soldiers looking to foster their pets http://pactforanimals.org/military-adopt.php and a separate one for those wishing to become foster families http://pactforanimals.org/foster-application.php . Soldiers are encouraged by PACT to complete the on-line application for a foster family at least a month in advance to match the appropriate foster family to the soldier’s pet.

Those interested in becoming foster families must complete an on-line foster application and provide veterinary and personal references. All requirements are listed on the PACT website www.PACTforanimals.org. Once reviewed, introductions with the family and the PACT animal are made. Before any decision is made, a home visit will be conducted by PACT.

If approved, a representative of PACT will ensure a smooth transition for all involved. All pets must be neutered or spayed for the protection of all animals involved. The animal’s diet, containment/management crating issues, housetraining, outdoor exercise, preventative veterinary care, behavior and manners training are among the issues discussed.

Before the PACT animal is turned over to their foster family, a Military Foster Agreement is signed by all parties involved, including PACT. This agreement lays down the terms and conditions of fostering which includes the agreement to provide food, shelter, fresh water, care, supervision, exercise, love and attention for the PACT animal. It also requires the foster family to commit to sending deployed troops textual and photographic status updates of the foster pet at least monthly and videos whenever possible.

The most important issue to remember is that even though a foster family may enjoy the animal’s companionship, the pet will be returned to the owner at the end of the deployment. Provisions within the agreement allow the foster to continue the relationship with the pet at a time that is convenient for the owner and foster family. The Agreement also provides for an extension of the foster if the deployment is extended and a right of first refusal to the foster volunteer should the soldier not return from duty or be unable to care for his or her pet upon return. Continued support is provided by PACT and if needed, trainers will help with any behavior issues that may arise. To date, the program has successfully placed over 50 animals and applications for fostering and placement are coming in every day. For Miller, he is content knowing that he is making a difference for our soldiers and their pets.

In the final segment, the Community Connection will look at several soldiers’ success stories, how you can help as well as the future of PACT.