IMG_1365After our post about the deer coming a little too close to our livelihood and helping themselves to a few choice plants, I thought it may be time to explain why this is really happening. I know we mentioned in the last post that we no longer have a good nursery dog. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have any dogs here, or that they aren’t good dogs. We have two at the moment. Miller, our big loveable, goofy Lab, and Lucky, the mixed breed that came to live with us after our daughter rescued him from being perpetually tied to a porch post. They are both wonderful dogs, we love them, and one of their all-time favorite things to do is to greet customers who come to the nursery. They’re good at this. They take their job as ‘greeters’ quite seriously. They get paid in extra love and pats from the many people who find them irresistible. But let’s talk about our old dog, Boreal, who we lost this last summer. He was fifteen, had terrible arthritis, and began developing tumors that we were fairly certain to be cancerous. He had a difficult summer. He was a great dog, a champion really, and took his job as complete overseer of the property with serious intention. Boreal was at least half Border Collie. Border Collie’s like to have a job. They tend to fret over things. They are more serious in nature than most other dogs. They are wicked smart. This was Boreal. He was devoted to us, to the farm, and to every creature who lived here. Every morning he would go out and patrol the entire 20 acres of our property. We know this because he developed a well-worn trail around the entire perimeter. He did the same thing every night before we went to bed. Often we would hear him barking off in the distance, no doubt warning any intruder that our property was off limits. Boreal came to me many years ago, almost 13 years ago, after I had lost another of our beloved Labs ( old age). This time, I figured I’d check out the shelter for a new dog. There he was, looking nervous and out of place, with sad eyes just begging me to give him a try. He’d been adopted and returned several times. Not because he had done anything wrong, but he wasn’t a squishy, cuddly kind of dog, and that happens to be what a lot of people are looking for. He was a serious dog. A thinker. A doer. He needed a job and he needed someone to love him for all of his amazing attributes. So, I took him home. At first he was a little nervous about this, he had left the shelter only to be returned a few too many times. Did I mention that he had lived in the shelter for almost two years? Did I mention that his future wasn’t looking so good? So off we went in my truck, me feeling pretty excited and him looking really nervous. I stopped briefly at the store for some gas. When I came out, he had chewed through three of my seat belts. He began looking even more nervous. I spoke to him in a kind voice, said “we’ll work on this” and drove on to the farm. When we got home, he was in between his constant state of nervousness ( he did recover from this condition) and astonishment. ” All these smells, all this room, all these critters to keep in place!!” He had found his home. I like to believe that he was so grateful for this chance of living that he made a pledge to watch over all of us for as long as he lived. He did this with intention, determination, no-nonsense, and with tremendous pride. He really was a champion of a dog, this Boreal. Once a visitor came to the nursery with a Griffin, the owner asked if he could let him out for a moment and assured us that he was a very well mannered and trained dog. Out he came and immediately spotted our free ranging chickens, and then…point and off he went. Boreal took off after him, caught up with him, gave him a good hit from the shoulder, which knocked the dog to the ground, and then he stood on him, looking back at us with an expression of ” get the hell over here, can’t you see this dog was going to eat one of our chickens!!”. Boreal did not like being in the house when we were outdoors and would do almost anything to get himself outside to be with us. He didn’t like to be cuddled, but he loved praise and belly rubs. If you went hiking he would always go on his own walk-about and might not return for hours later, he’d always know his way home. He was slightly particular about who he liked though he never bit anyone…he’d just ignore you. He seemed to always know how to adjust his behavior to each and every circumstance. He loved puppies. He ignored children. He loved to swim, he was scared to death of thunderstorms, and never got on the furniture. He was an independent sort of guy. He had an unbelievable understanding of vocabulary, we often had to spell words to avoid him knowing what we were up to. No matter how many times he came back from one of his daily patrols with a face full of porcupine quills, he never gave up trying to kill them. They just weren’t supposed to be tramping around on our farm. He meant business.
So, if you are wondering why all of a sudden we have deer coming into the nursery, feeling like it’s o.k. to sample some of our hard work, it’s because Boreal is not around to keep law and order. We miss Boreal for all that he was….our serious, Dudly Do Right of a dog. Our champion nursery dog. Our beloved friend.

37 comments on “Boreal

    • Amazing how these dogs come into our lives and what they end up meaning…..I am certain Boreal was meant for us, and us for him. The best part was being able to provide a life he deserved….that i think we did for him! Thank you, this post was not so easy to write, though has been on my mind to do so….

    • yes, a new dog would have big shoes( paws) to fill. Our other two dogs are very lovely, but they have a much more relaxed attitude about intruders…Boreal was definitely the super hero of Fernwood. Thank you, Judy!

    • There are many words and much praise for this dog of ours…his intelligence was baffling at times, as he got older and became sick, it was troubling…to him and to us. He was very frustrated this past summer with his inability to do his job. I hope he’s chasing critters and finding a piece of heaven to watch over. Our good ol’dog.

    • When he first came to me and ate the seat belts in the car, right away I knew it wasn’t out of defiance or bad behavior. Boreal had very soulful and expressive eyes, I remember him looking at me with those eyes as if to say ” Oh dang, I didn’t mean to do that”. Boreal Of The North Woods…he truly was our champion nursery dog. We really miss him.

      • We received a letter from an adopter this week…it took six months for the dog she took home to even approach her because he was so fearful of people. It has been 10 years now – and he is her faithful, velcro companion. Some rescues require a great deal of patience – but it is rewarded tenfold. I’m very sorry for your loss.

        • Boreal’s absence is noted daily, on so many levels. When I found him at the shelter, he was a weary soul. I don’t think he had much faith in his future…too many gave him a brief try and then brought him back. I think mostly he was just too darn smart for most people to understand. He loved the nursery, he loved patrolling the property, he loved walking along side me while I moved sheep fence. His face no longer had the look of uncertainty, it had the look of ” we’re on the same team, you and me…thanks for that” Gratitude was part of his being, he showed it daily through his loyalty and earnest ways.I think he had a very type A personality…..”work, and work some more, and maybe have a little fun once all my jobs are done”, is what he always seem to be thinking. I loved this dog for his courage, his kindness, and his every way of being. What pleases me most…is that he knew that. Thank you, thank you , for the very kind words…they matter!

  1. Lovely story. I can picture Boreal ranging your perimeter. A working breed, if ever there was one. You are lucky he rescued you the day you visited the shelter.

    • Thank you Helen…and truly the very best way to look at these things…we picked him, and he picked us….a real match for both! We as his family….. were really the ‘lucky dogs’ in this relationship.

  2. i wrote on your last post that maybe it was time to get a dog to continue Boreal’s work. Now I can see that it is MUCH more complicated than that! What an amazing dog and how wonderful that you found each other, when you met each other’s needs so perfectly!

    • Hi kerry, It takes time to get over losing a dog like Boreal….he came to me with a 2 year history at the shelter and some anxiety issues, but once he knew home was here and that he had lifetime employment ( with great benefits) he settled right in. Noble is the best word to describe this dog. Someday we’ll find another nursery watchman, but for a while we’ll love up the other two couch potatoes and wait for the right one to present themselves.

  3. My favorite magazine, Garden & Gun, has a dog story in each issue, and this is as good as any. Boreal may always be top working dog in your heart, but I hope you find and take on another serious soul to follow in his tradition. What a tribute that would be.

    • It is nice when a dog needs both a home and a purpose, as Border Collies often do, and they become the perfect fit for your farm and ( more importantly) family. His place in our hearts and here at the nursery will live on, for sure. Thank you, Marian, I appreciate your very kind thoughts.

  4. What a wonderful story. Beautifully written! I share your love and devotion to these grand animals. How lucky we are to have them in our lives. I’m going thru some tough times with one of mine so was tearfully touched while reading your story. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Sue….if I were to describe Boreal in just two words they would be, noble and loyal. I could go on to say that he was quirky, and he could fret about things ( like an animal being out of its pasture with us not being aware of it), and he could even be stubborn at times. But all of these things, rolled into this lovable companion, is what made him so special. Sorry to hear about your pup not being well, I hope nothing too serious.We do love these dogs, don’t we? Thank you for the response…it made my day. denise

  5. Such a dear old guy. I’ll never forget the time I was frantically looking for him, afraid he’d run off while I was supposed to be “in charge.” I finally found him lying under the house looking at me like “What?! Could you hold it down? I’m trying to nap!” Love him still.

    • There were certain people he really liked, you were one of those people, not surprising though….the other dogs get a happy look on their face when you show up…and you don’t even carry biscuits in your pocket. But Boreal reserved his affection for certain people, he had to size them up, decide whether or not he’d give them the time of day, and then decide if he’d allow someone to’make of him’. When he did welcome the open affection of people outside his family, you knew you were a-o.k. in his book. He was a little like Carson on Downton Abby, don’t you think Kari? We all loved him, didn’t we? Thank you, my dear dog loving friend!

  6. My goodness, one of the dearest pieces of writing I have read in a while, expressed so vividly. It must have been a task getting used to not cuddling with his lovableness and equally wonderful that you understood him so well. Xx

    • There is probably not a day that goes by where we find our selves wondering “where’s Boreal” , he was an integral part of our world in many, many, ways. Sometimes we just hit upon the perfect combination between man and beast! We were a good team that way! Thank you for the lovely, kind words, Melissa!

  7. Thank you for sharing wonderful Boreal. A smile on my face… remembering some of my dogs on the farm… way back when!

    • Thank you, Kristine…..we sure do have a special bond with these canine companions. And farm dogs…..the ones that make the rounds with you, keep unwanted critters at bay, and love the farm as much as yourself….special for sure! Thank you so much for reading and for taking time to comment.

  8. What a wonderful and loving tribute to a very special friend. I had a dog very much like Boreal…..he has been gone over 20 years now but I still miss him so much. The world needs more people like you to give these incredible creatures the chance to show how truly remarkable they can be.

    • Often I think about the serendipity of these chance meetings, in this case, woman and dog. What if I hadn’t gone to the shelter that very day? What if I had chose another shelter? What if there were other dogs that caught my eye first? Hard to belive there would have been, Boreal locked onto me with those soulful and sad eyes… chance for another pooch that day! Thank you , Amy…..when someone looses a dog, it reminds us all of our intimate experiences we have with our canine friends. I bet your pup was a champ, too…no doubt. Great to hear from you…are you knitting???

      • Of course! Knitting every day! Our dog Beau was a champ and went on walk-abouts very regularly always making his way back home by dinnertime. He was once spotted at a Great Barrington, MA department store perusing the record racks. that was at least 8 miles from home!! He was also loyal and true to his ‘pack’.

  9. What a hole you must feel with him gone. And what would we do without dogs? They are the most amazing creatures. It’s so fortunate (for you and Boreal) that you recognized a kindred spirit when you met him in the shelter. A lovely, lovely tribute.

    • Thank you….life has a way of bringing together the souls that need one another….I needed him and he needed me, it was a happy arrangement for both, I think. As I mentioned Boreal was a serious dog, wasn’t attached to being over emotional ( unlike our Lab who will bowl you over if you even bat an eye in his direction), he was much more reserved. Though, when I looked at him and said ” come on, lets go, you’re my guy”, his happiness was undeniable. Thank you for responding and reading and you are so, so right…these dogs make all the difference in our lives, it’s a privilege really. Have a happy, happy day!!

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