Woman puts ‘Paws First’ to follow her life’s calling

Staff Writer

 Liz Boucher stops for a rest while walking border collies Nyles, left, and Marshall. Liz Boucher stops for a rest while walking border collies Nyles, left, and Marshall. METUCHEN — When Liz Boucher found her passion, she pursued it doggedly, and it changed the course of her life. For the borough resident, it was an affinity for border collies that led her to her true calling.

“It started when I fell in love with my sister’s border collie, a breed of dog known for its intelligence, boundless energy and loyalty,” Boucher said. “Then I found out that many people cannot handle border collies — they need continual mental and physical stimulation.”

In fact, she said, the breed is among the top five most euthanized dogs. Because they are working dogs by nature, they require a large commitment from owners to provide the stimulation they need, or they can turn to destructive behaviors. They can even grapple with obsessive-compulsive disorder, she said.

“They’re not good in apartments and they’re not good with children,” Boucher said. “They’re adorable, they’re beautiful, but they’re very difficult to own.”

Her love for the breed led her to seek ways to work with and help border collies. For Boucher, charity started at home, and because she believes in adopting instead of breeding, she sought to rescue a dog. Through Petfinder.com, she found Sweet Border Collie

Rescue in Morris, N.Y., and adopted her first border collie.

She also met founder Lillie Goodrich.

“She changed my life,” Boucher said. “When I met her, I was so inspired.”

It was Goodrich’s willingness to follow her passion that led Boucher to do the same. Prior to that revelation, she had a corporate career in men’s fashion in New York.

“I had left that area to find something more meaningful in my life,” she said.

Boucher began volunteering with Sweet Border Collie Rescue, along with providing a foster home for dogs from the Woodbridge Animal Shelter. She has rescued border collies from as far away as China, and has saved dogs that were on “death row,” she said.

For example, she worked closely with a troubled pit bull for nine months.

“In that time, I was able to fix and correct the behavioral problems,” she said.

A recent instance of working with a dog to quell behavioral issues saved the animal from being euthanized, she said.

“Going to see this dog and knowing I was able to save his life was the most wonderful and amazing experience I ever had,” she said.

She also conducts evaluations on border collies to test their temperaments, she said.

The work is immensely more fulfilling than her previous corporate role, according to Boucher.

“It’s a very important part of my life,” she said.

So much so that she decided to turn her passion into a livelihood. In 2009, she started Paws First, a pet-care service, in her hometown of Metuchen. Boucher and a team of six employees provide dog walking, pet sitting, care for injured or sick pets, pet daycare and boarding, and obedience training.

To augment her career with canines, Boucher obtained certification in dog-obedience training from the Animal Behavior College in California.

Although Boucher runs the business out of her home, she said she would like to open a boarding facility in the future.

For now, Boucher has something of a following, with more than 200 clients, and fellow Metuchen residents who come to her for guidance with their dogs. Her assurance with the animals, which she said is all about remaining in a relaxed, calm state, makes it no wonder.

“I’m capable of handling any dog, any breed, any size,” Boucher said.

Not only an advocate for border collies, Boucher also champions pit bulls. She recently mentored a Girl Scout who was working on a pit bull advocacy project, she said.

“In general, I feel that there’s this huge epidemic of pit bulls in shelters,” she said, adding that behavioral issues with some members of the breed come from being raised for fighting by abusive owners.

Pit bulls are not the No. 1 biters among dogs, but they receive the most media attention due to their strength, she said.

Both of Boucher’s daughters were involved in Paws First but are now in college, and she is figuring out how to make do without them. While Boucher may be shorthanded, it’s doubtful that she’s lonely with her faithful pals Buddy, Marshall and Niall — all border collies — by her side.

“I’m living my dream,” she said. “I’m not a millionaire, but I love what I do.”

For more information on Paws First, visit http://pawsfirstllc.com or call 732- 947-6719.