Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 28, 2023

Boland dedicated to animals, real estate

Realtor Janine Boland shoulders the slight weight of an opossum at Opie Acres, the wildlife restoration operation where she volunteers. - Photograph provided

From cats to dogs to platypuses, animals come all shapes, sizes and forms. Just as varied in their tastes are the people who love them. There are feline fanatics, folks who prefer dogs and, well, Janine Boland.

Boland is a Realtor with RE/MAX Renaissance in Hixson, as well as a special breed of animal lover. For starters, she does love dogs, she insists as her Belgian Malinois Husky, Scooby-Dooby-Doo, barks for her attention.

“He’s a pandemic puppy,” Boland, 40, says by phone from the Ooltewah home where she lives with her husband, two children, a pair of dogs and one cat.

“He’s crazy smart and he likes to be the center of attention. He puts all of his tennis balls under the dresser on purpose and then barks at them because he wants me to help retrieve them.”

However, to brand Boland a dog lover would be only partially correct. “I love critters of all kinds,” she says.

This includes the species pictured with Boland in a finger-numbing gallery of selfies on her phone. Featuring what look like the ears and tail of a mouse, a pink-tipped bottlenose snout, two coal black eyes that bulge from their sockets and a grayish coat that looks like it could be either soft or prickly, the opossum has a fan in Boland.

Boland has even found a way to help care for opossums, which are not the same species as possums, she notes. After she and her immediate family moved to Chattanooga in 2019, a neighbor mentioned a local nonprofit called Opie Acres, a rehabilitation center for mostly Virginia opossums.

Boland signed up as a catch-all volunteer who would do whatever was needed as she helped to nurse the animals back to the point where the organization could return them to the wild.

“It’s hard work because they have a lot of animals,” Boland says. “There’s a lot of cleaning up poop, fixing booboos and preparing sometimes gross food. They’re wild animals, so they eat a bunch of things that aren’t necessarily palatable to us.”

Boland uses her phone to send three photos that show her interacting with the critters at Opie Acres. In one, an opossum is gripping her left shoulder with its long pink fingers as it nestles the pompom-topped winter hat she’s wearing. In another, the opossum is standing on her shoulders and looking directly at the camera. In all three, Boland is smiling the way an animal lover who’s in her element smiles.

“I really enjoy being there and the animals have really grown on me,” she says.

Boland did well enough on mess hall duty – as well as the cleanup that inevitably followed – that the leadership of Opie Acres invited her to join its board. She’s presently serving as its secretary and outreach coordinator.

“I visit festivals and schools, and I always bring our education ambassadors, which are tame, friendly possums that usually ended up being someone’s pet and were then surrendered to us because the people didn’t know how to take care of them.”

As an aside, Boland mentions that it’s illegal to keep any wild animal as a pet in Tennessee.

“Sometimes, someone will think it’s a cute idea to pick up the baby possum they found and raise it as a pet, but at some point, they’re going to realize that’s not a good idea.”

Although Boland says she has a close bond with the “marvelous marsupials” at Opie Acres, she can’t speak their language, a la Dr. Doolittle. She does, however, speak the language of her native country – Germany.

Boland’s command of German is partially responsible for her entry into the real estate profession.

“A friend who’s an agent with RE/MAX Renaissance approached me about helping her work with Volkswagen,” Boland explains, referring to Maria Lopez Tello. “She works with the relocation agencies Volkswagen uses when they have people coming over for a few years and need a rental.”

Boland had previously considered becoming a Realtor to facilitate the frequent moves she and her husband, Ted, an Allstate insurance agent, made for his work, but she was always content with whatever job she had, she says. However, after the family moved to Chattanooga in 2019 and then weathered the pandemic, she was ready to step out of her home and help someone find theirs.

“I like showing houses and sharing my knowledge of moving to a new home, city, state or country. I’m an expert because I’ve done it many, many times.”

(As an aside, Boland mentions she’s also a skilled packer. “I could pack your house in just a few hours,” she laughs. “I enjoy it. I like the challenge.”)

Boland moved from Germany to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in 2009 to realize her dream of living and working in the U.S., which took shape as she spent time in the country as an exchange student while attending high school. She met her husband, as she calls him, “the guy who managed the front desk,” at the Hyatt where she worked.

Boland believes her experiences starting a new life in a foreign country have given her the knowledge – and the mettle – she needs to assist clients who are either moving across town or crossing borders to live in the Chattanooga area.

“Moving to a new place is hard,” she says. “Even if it’s only a few hours down the road, it’s all new, and you have to learn to find your way around.”

The learning curve is steeper for foreigners, Boland continues.

“Finding your footing in the U.S. can be hard when you’re coming from an international spot. You’re an adult, and you know how to navigate life in your country, but then all of a sudden you’re in a different country and things work differently.”

As an example, Boland shares the story of trying to purchase a bottle of champagne for her husband’s birthday celebration on a Sunday in Baltimore.

“We’d just arrived in the city and I didn’t know liquor stores were closed on Sundays. We’d moved from Nevada, where everything is always open. You can gamble in the supermarket. But I found myself standing in front of locked doors on a Sunday. I wondered, ‘How did I not know this?’”

Boland says her Sunday experience in Baltimore was trivial compared to navigating an unfamiliar world and learning a second language, but it illustrates how countless obstacles lie in wait for people who are finding their footing in new circumstances.

This brings out the caregiver in her, she says, and gives meaning to her work as a Realtor.

“I like to use what I’ve learned about Chattanooga to encourage someone who’s nervous about finding a good school or doesn’t know how to sign up their kid for soccer. I’ve always worked in customer service positions and made sure the people I helped moved forward. Even if it takes a little longer or we have to step back and find more information, at the end of my day, I want to make somebody else’s day better.”

Boland, who became a Realtor this summer, is celebrating a successful hunt for a client who will be moving into a rental unit in August. She credits her fellow agents at RE/MAX for “teaching her the ropes.”

“RE/MAX Renaissance has given me a wonderful welcome. Everyone seems very knowledgeable and has been willing to guide me along the process. I appreciate their support more than I can say. We have a great team that’s always ready to go the extra mile for each other and their clients.”

As Boland heaps praise on her RE/MAX family, another member of her at-home brood vies her attention. This time, it’s her 7-year-old son – the youngest of two – who’s learned lessons about persistence from Scooby.

“I’m on the phone,” Boland says patiently, buying herself a few seconds at best. She uses the time to return to the topic of opossums and the work she’ll be doing at Opie Acres in the months ahead.

“Baby season is coming, so we’re going to have more opossums soon. It’s going to be busy.”

Even though Boland has ascended to the organization’s board and is serving as its secretary, she’s still planning to roll up her sleeves and join the other volunteers in the trenches, where she’ll clean up opossum poop, prepare food and even wash dishes.

“’Board member’ is just a fancy term,” she laughs. “We all get down and dirty with the critters – and we love it.”