How Being a Geek Led Me to The Dog Who Glued My Heart Back Together

The name underneath the picture was “Harley Quinn.” How could a GeekMom resist that?

I couldn’t. The problem was, my heart was still in a thousand million shattered little pieces. It was only two weeks since the day I had to watch Max fall asleep, never to wake up. Max had been my baby. My little BB-8 dog. He was small, flurfy, and had the most expressive eyebrows.

Image Karen Walsh
Image Karen Walsh

Max had been the Baby Replacement when I couldn’t get pregnant right away. The day I got the phone call (before we had texts in our house) during a tornado watch to come meet a little fluffy dog Mr had found at the local pet shop rapidly entered Walsh Family Lore. I had taken Max to vet appointment after vet appointment when he had Giardia after Giardia attack. He had been with me through all the infertility stuff we’d gone through. The day I had the HSG and just wanted to curl into a ball, he’d curled up with me. Then, when I finally got pregnant, he would curl up on my stomach, calming down while he also calmed down the baby.

Max was always my worry. When we brought the baby home, he barked for eight hours nonstop sending me into a post-partum meltdown that we would have to get rid of him.

Max bit the pants of the Merry Maid who didn’t like me, sending me into a meltdown that we would have to get rid of him.

Max attacked the Menu Guy who kicked JD, our older dog, after he rang our bell to deliver a menu and JD escaped to get pets, sending me into a meltdown that we would have to get rid of him.

Max bit through the pants of my male friend and my plumbers who had known me for years.

Max hated men, had a racism problem, and freaked out whenever we played rough in the house worrying someone would get hurt.

The day I had to drive him to the vet, cuddle him until his eyes closed the last time, and say good bye suddenly because the cough he had was cancer riddling his lungs with every heaving breath sent me into a sense of desperate loneliness I didn’t know I could feel losing a pet.

And so, as any totally emotionally repressed person would do, I began scouring the Internet for a replacement dog. Our older dog is wonderful, but lazy and totally a diva. She comes to you. When she wants you. Max was my baby boy. The baby I’d saved from most certain death at the pet store. The dog who would be loyal to me unconditionally. I missed him. So I tried to find someone to take up the empty space in my house and my heart.

Then I saw the name Harley Quinn as I scrolled through local rescues. She met the allergy requirements and size requirements. Due to Mr’s allergies, we had to ensure some form of low dander mix-poodle had been our previous go-to. Harley Quinn was 7 months old. She was part dachshund and part Yorkie. She would be smaller than our other dogs had been. She was crate trained. She seemed perfect.

Image Karen Walsh
Image Karen Walsh

She was a Dorkie named Harley Quinn. Let’s all get real here, this is basically the Most Perfect Dog for me. It was kismet. Here I am, the geek lady. The person who often responds to people by saying, “Yeah, I know. I’m a dork.” And here is a dog that is a DORKIE named after a female comic book character. For real people. Let’s all take a moment and stop. This was meant to be. Right?

Except, it wasn’t. By the time I contacted the rescue, Harley Quinn had already gone to another home. We would know her adoption status in a few days. Except, the couple she was with loved her.

Then, while I was volunteering in my son’s media center the following Wednesday morning, my phone vibrated. Harley Quinn hadn’t been a good match for the other family. They were older. The wife was ill. All her puppiness was too much work with their two cats. Were we still interested in meeting her?

Sometimes, the planets align. Sometimes, things are meant to be. I had to wait three days. Three. Long. Days. Harley Quinn would come to our home on Friday afternoon to visit.

For me, it was love at first sight. She was small. She was snuggly. She’d had a hard life. And she cuddled right up on me immediately.

I often wonder, late at night, if this was another example of Max watching over us and protecting us. He knew that I would miss him. He found us the exact opposite of himself. Where Max’s anxiety came out as aggression, Harley Quinn’s comes out as cuddles. Where Max had no tail, Harley Quinn’s is long and thumpy when she’s happy. Where Max would get up and eat at 4am, then go back to bed, Harley Quinn just sleeps. Where Max felt that fetching was for suckers, Harley Quinn brings back every toy and even has a sense of humor about it. Where Max would snuggle with JD for comfort, Harley Quinn follows me around and keeps me company in my office. I’ve often thought to myself that she is everything Max always sort of wanted to be—comfortably submissive, outwardly affectionate, and spunky.

Harley Quinn, like her namesake, almost seems to know. She’s like the therapist I didn’t know I needed. My own little Dr. Quinzel. Somewhere the Geek Fates came together to help glue my heart back together. If a dog can be a geeky dog, I think Harley Quinn probably is one. In her first week here, she killed a Stormtrooper (dog toy, that is). She sports the BB-8 sweatshirt I bought her with a wag of her tail and a sprint in her step. The other night, in the midst of the polar vortex deep freeze here in Connecticut, she tried to bring her Han Solo toy out to the back yard. “Don’t bring Han out into Hoth!” I called, entertained at my own humor. Perhaps she only heard the tone of my voice, but I like to think that her quick response was a further sign of her innate dog geek.

I fell in love at first sight because the geek in me loved the comic book name. I stay in love because she’s the perfect fit for our home and fills the empty place Max left behind.

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Karen Walsh is a part time, extended contract, first year writing instructor at the University of Hartford. In other words, she's SuperAdjunct, complete with capes and Jedi robe worn during grading. She also works as a contract internal regulatory compliance auditor for banks. In addition, she writes comics and artist reviews at www.cosplayconnectuniversity.com.She works in order to support knitting, comics, tattoo, and museum membership addictions. She has one dog, one husband, and one son who all live with her just outside of Hartford, CT.