Swift: When it comes to life — and dogs — a good fit is everything

When I met a sweet, little Lhasa-bichon mix named Wally, I knew he was the one. I saw it in his photo on the rescue website with one look at his big, beautiful, chocolate-brown eyes. They sparkled with intelligence, sweetness and just a smidge of sadness. Could I give him a home?

"Wally" is a good fit for me. Tammy Swift / The Forum

FARGO — Fit is everything.

We need to find a job that fits, or we’ll feel miscast. We need a partner who fits us, so we feel seen and understood. We need a lifestyle that fits, or we’ll always feel like, well, misfits.

Deep down, we know what fits us. Sometimes we try to pretend an incompatible career/love/life fits perfectly, because our brains or egos want to veto our hearts.

You can’t force a good fit.

I did just that when I got a new Pomeranian pup named Winston. He was smart, sassy and absolutely beautiful. His black-and-white coloring reminded me of my beloved Pomapoo, Kita, who passed over to the Rainbow Bridge in 2019. Unfortunately, Winston was a poor fit for a quiet home with no kids.


I played with him, took him to doggy day care and took him to training, but he turned increasingly more hyper and destructive. I tried everything, but could not get him to stop peeing on the carpet. Finally, I decided it was better for him to live in a home where his personality more closely matched those of his owners.

He was rehomed with a carefully vetted family who had kids (Winston LOVES kids), a huge yard and a very active lifestyle. It was heartbreaking, but — by all accounts — he is much happier in his new, true home.

My heart had felt empty for months when I spotted a sweet, little Lhasa-bichon mix named Wally on a dog-rescue website a few weeks ago. I was immediately drawn to his big, beautiful, chocolate-brown eyes. They sparkled with intelligence, sweetness and just a smidge of sadness.

"Wally" is a good fit for me. Tammy Swift / The Forum

He was a little guy — just 13 pounds — with adorable floppy ears and curly cream-colored fur with a pale ginger tint.

But what really tugged at my heart was his "before" picture. His hair was a tangled mess and so overgrown his eyes were completely covered. The groomers said his hair was knotted down to his skin.

I wondered about him. His foster described him as the most sweet and loving little soul. What happens in people’s lives that they can no longer take care of such a great dog?


I realize life can be hard — and complicated. The last year, especially so. I wondered what he had experienced in his nine years on the planet. Obviously, some of it had been good, as he liked humans, was in good health and had no behavioral issues.

When we did a meet and greet, Wally's past didn’t seem to haunt him. After a few tentative wags of his tail, he snuggled right up against my boyfriend. He chose to trust us. But that’s the beauty of dogs. They trust, even when they have little reason to do so.

Of course, we had to adopt him. As described, Wally has a sweet, mellow temperament, yet is in excellent health. He shows great promise as a couch potato. He seems a little surprised by the attention lavished upon him, the gifts and bones presented to him, and the fact he gets to sleep on a human’s bed.

He tucks right behind my knees when I sleep, just as Kita once did. The first time he did this, I cried a little.

Wally has the superb manners of an elder statesman, never chewing things beyond his own bones and keeping the living room rug as dry as the Gobi Desert. Oddly, he doesn’t seem to know some of the basic obedience commands, such as “sit” and “stay.” When I walk him, he pulls like he’s trying to win the Iditarod. It’s like he has never been outside before. He makes a heroic effort to mark every tree and fence post within 10 blocks of my home.

But he’s incredibly bright, and soon picks up commands like “outside,” “potty,” “hungry,” “walk,” “home” and “ride.” Thankfully, he’s very food-motivated, which makes it easy to bribe him to follow commands with a tiny piece of cheese.

He is living, snuggling proof of the incredible rewards that come from adopting an older dog .

Wally isn't perfect for everyone, but he's perfect for me.


He just fits.

Swift can be contacted at

Tammy Swift online column sig revised 3-16-21.jpg
Tammy Swift, Forum columnist.

Tammy Swift online column sig revised 3-16-21.jpg
Tammy Swift, Forum columnist.

Tammy has been a storyteller most of her life. Before she learned the alphabet, she told stories by drawing pictures and then dictated the narrative to her ever-patient mother. A graduate of North Dakota State University, she has worked as a Dickinson, N.D., bureau reporter, a Bismarck Tribune feature writer/columnist, a Forum feature reporter, columnist and editor, a writer in NDSU's Publications Services, a marketing/social media specialist, an education associate in public broadcasting and a communications specialist at a nonprofit.
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