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Bow Wow Meow Press

December 17, 2008

Volunteer of the Week

by Joel Fram (Main Line Times)

Anyone who wants to appreciate the term "man on a mission" should spend a few minutes talking to Buzz Miller.  A 35-year veteran of the legal and real estate world, Miller is now a high-energy promoter of companion animals and the human-animal bond.  He's at it day and night, sponsoring seminars and workshops, writing articles, fundraising and sending and answering countless e-mails.  And it's not just for the animals.  "What I'm doing is not just about saving rescue animals," he says.  "It's about humans, too, whose lives, he feels, are immeasurably enriched by their pets.  Last year, Miller opened Buzzy's Bow WOW Meow, a pet supply store in the ornate storefront that once housed Albrecht's on Montgomery Avenue in Narberth.  The store carries holistic, organic and raw foods and is staffed by knowledgeable animal lovers.  Beyond its retail function, the store's mission is to serve as what Miller terms a "companion animal education center":  It offers regular free seminars (like "nobody else in the country,") he says, sponsors acquisition of K-9, seeing eye and disability assistance dogs, and promotes adoptions of dogs, cats and other companion animals.

Miller developed his passion for animals in his late 30s, when he became attached - very attached - to his girlfriend's cockapoo.  The relationship between the humans didn't work out, but Miller went to great trouble and expense to acquire the dog when property was divided:  He gave her his car and bribed her two sons with a television, a motorcycle and an expensive purebred dog in exchange for her $35 dog. You can say he learned about the strength of the human-animal bond by experiencing it himself.

Miller is a fount of statistics on companion animal ownership and on stories demonstrating the value of the bond to both animals and the humans who care for them.  He talks of soldiers who were in combat in Vietnam who now, in their 60s, tear up when they recall the dogs that risked their lives for them.  He also speaks of house-bound seniors and those who suffer from serious illnesses whose lives are made vastly richer by their pets; some say they would have no reason to get up in the morning were it not for their animals.

"We can learn a lot from companion animals," Miller says.  "Simple values: caring, loyalty, devotion."  And, he adds, no matter what personal or economic problems or worries you may face, "that dog will still wag his tail, this cat will still purr for you."  Miller offers his business know-how to animal welfare organizations that are run with good intentions but often without adequate funding or sound business principles.  And he is in the process of forming a nonprofit to promote the value of companion animals and to educate the public (including children) about issues relating to them.  Those issues include the need to enhance laws relating to puppy mills and moving Philadelphia toward becoming a "no kill" city for every adoptable companion animal.

The non-profit would also work to dispel popular misconceptions about animals and to disseminate information that he feels the public should know. (As examples: Ninety percent of dogs sold in retail stores-including fancy ones-are from "puppy mills" and some 100,000 horses are slaughtered annually in the U.S. for meat served in fancy European restaurants.)

Miller worked for the passage of a law to tighten regulations of puppy mills in Pennsylvania, which raised dogs on insufficient food and in cages without the socialization they need.  Pennsylvania, he says "was laughed at as the puppy mill capital of the East."

The bill, which he says is inadequate but a step in the right direction, became law in October of this year.

Miller's "nerve center" is his office in his Gladwyne home, whose bookshelves are packed with books on a wide range of subjects and whose walls are hung with pictures and memorabilia relating to animals. His large horseshoe-shaped desk is crowded with piles of papers, and in a nearby room, he shows file cabinets stuffed with paperwork about his work.  "I'm a year behind in filing," he says. 

Miller, 67, was born in West Philadelphia and moved to Bala Cynwyd when he was 9 years old.  He attended Lower Merion High School (class of 1958), then earned his bachelor's from Wharton, his law degree from the University of PA, and a master's in tax law from N.Y.U.  His wife, Judi Goldstein, runs her own real estate management business; she has two adult children and a 6-yr old granddaughter. Miller says he has been a "passionate sports nut all my life," though, he adds, he doesn't have much time for that passion now.  He is a great fan of art movies; he cites Fellini, Truffaut and Kurosawa among his favorite directors.

Naturally, Miller and his wife have pets of their own: three rescue dogs (two Shiba Inus and one Lab mix), four rescue cats and a rescue horse, boarded nearby. Miller says he is more of a dog person and his wife is more of a cat person. "Every time we lose one, we get another," he says.

He emphasizes that his prodigious work is not just about animals but about people, too, about the human-animal bond and how it enriches the lives of both.

For more information - or if you have a question about anything that relates to companion animals - you may send Miller an e-mail at [email protected] . His answer might well be written in the wee hours.

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