By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
As a successful lawyer who enjoyed his work, Miller, of Gladwyne, Pa., retired at the age of 62 to pursue his passion of volunteering at local animal shelters.
While volunteering, however, he came across military personnel giving up their pets because they were being deployed. “These men and women about to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan had tears running down their faces, because they had nowhere else to leave their pets,” Miller said. “These pets would either be euthanized, adopted to another family or spend the rest of their lives at the shelter. This is no way to treat the men and women who serve our country, and no way to treat their pets.”
So, in 2011, Miller created PACT (People + Animals = Companions Together) for Animals a 501(c)(3) located just outside Philadelphia that finds foster homes for the pets of military personnel while they’re deployed.
Beginning with just a few foster families and four foster dogs in 2011, the group had placed 150 companion animals as of December 2013, Miller said. Owners have driven to the Philadelphia area from as far away as Florida and Missouri, and some have even flown in with their pets.
“We serve a lot of soldiers in the area and are expanding to other parts of the country,” said Miller, noting that PACT satellites have formed in Colorado and Arizona.
Miller Makes a Match
For Specialist Petra Torri, a U.S. Army intelligence officer who hailed from Florida, the program helped her find a home for a mini cocker spaniel mix named Coco and a Jack Russell terrier named Bella when she had to leave home for training.
With no other options, and with pet sitters too expensive for the seven or eight months she would be gone, Torri turned to PACT.
She ultimately flew her dogs to eastern Pennsylvania to be fostered by Lorrie and Michael Manacchio, who had seen a segment on their local news about the group and decided to foster.
The Manacchios have two dogs of their own, a golden retriever and a chow mix, and Torri was initially concerned about leaving her small dogs with larger ones. However, “when I made the introduction, her fears were allayed,” said Miller, who checks out every foster home before a placement is made. “I assured her that we don’t accept aggressive dogs. She also liked that Michael was a veteran.”
Miller also ascertained that although the Manacchios work full time, Lorrie’s father, who is retired, walks the dogs and spends time with them during the day.
During the deployment, Torri and the Manacchios kept in touch. Lorrie “would send me photos of Coco and Bella sitting at the dinner table,” said Torri. “They didn’t want to eat. They just sat there to be part of the family.”
Other photos showed the dogs playing with toys and taking turns sitting on Lorrie’s lap while floating on an inner tube in the Manacchios’ pool.
“We now feel like our family has expanded thanks to PACT,” said Lorrie. The Manacchios, in fact, have promised to foster Torri’s dogs if she is deployed again.
“The people that foster are truly caring people,” said Miller. “They share my love of animals, and they want to help those who serve our country.”
New Career Is a Labor of Love
In addition to running PACT and fundraising for the organization, Miller and his wife, Judi Goldstein Miller, 70, (who is active in cat adoptions), also own and operate a local pet store called Buzzy’s Bow Wow Meow in Narberth, Pa., where they also host pet adoption events.
“I like to keep busy,” said Miller, “and it is easy when you know you are making a difference. It gives me such joy to help people who care about their pets. That is what PACT is all about.”
PACT’s new ventures include launching a foster program for individuals who are hospitalized and need foster care for their pets.
Whether military personnel or patient, PACT’s goal is to make sure owners “know that their pets will be in good hands,” he said.
(Editor’s Note: This article, written by me–Michele C. Hollow–originally appeared on NowU. The site recently closed it’s doors.)