from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #8: RIP Mangnae “Big Mac” 2001-2010

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This post has nothing to do with writing or the Army, but writing is therapy at times.

Two days ago, I woke up in the early afternoon—recovering from a long night of drinking and watching the World Cup—to a Facebook message from my younger brother, Jason. The title of the message was “bad news…” Our pug, Mangnae, had a tumor in his lungs and there wasn’t anything the doctors could do to treat him. Yesterday, Jason took Mangnae to the vet to get euthanized.

I say “our dog,” but really he was Mom’s dog. He was a gift to her at a time when all of her sons were leaving the nest, a gift given to her to replace whatever void may be left behind after we were gone. In that sense, he lived up to his purpose. Granted, it might not have been such a big void—she often told me to grow up and get out—but it was apparent who the new lord of the manor was, even before the last of us (i.e., me) even left.

I often tell the following story to my writing and debate students when teaching about the difference between “telling” and “showing.”

One day while I was in my fifth year in college, I came home from a wait shift at the Old Spaghetti Factory and joined Mom and Mangnae watching television in the living room. It was late so Mom got up, turned off the lights in the dining room, and headed up the stairs to her bedroom. About halfway up the steps, she paused, looked down, and said, “Good night.”

“Oh, good night, Mom.”

She looked at me for a second, and it was then that I realized that she hadn’t been looking at me before. “I wasn’t talking to you.”

She had been saying good night to Mangnae. It was one of those situations where you think someone’s waving at you and you wave back, but actually that wave was never intended for you. Was it really necessary to point it out? It’s not like he had the social consciousness to notice; he was already half-asleep on the love chair. It was, however, evidence of the deep bond they shared.

The affection was reciprocated. The three things that mattered to Mangnae were Mom, food, and sleep. It was so fucking endearing, the way he would saunter to the door, barking, whenever one of us returned home, wagging his entire hindquarters (pugs’ tails are curled like pig tails and don’t wag independently of their bodies). But after a few seconds, he’d get tired, turn around, and traipse back to Mom’s side or his cushion in the living room.

The last time I visited Mom at the store, she asked me to take him for a walk. He needed the exercise and he was so damn cute, I thought I could use him to troll for yuppie or hippie women in Belltown.

He used to love going outside, but on that occasion, he got tired after a couple minutes and sat down on the sidewalk. Try as I could, he wouldn’t budge. He just sat there, staring off into the distance. Dogs have a great sense of direction (The Incredible Journey) and he was looking in the direction of Mom’s store. I gave up and took a few steps toward the store, and he got off his fat ass and started leading me there.

Although I only spent a year with Mangnae before I came to Korea and saw him only on my brief visits home thereafter, I’m going to miss him terribly. He was family, and it’s hard to tell whether it was a coincidence or he inherited our character flaws but he fit in perfectly. He was lazy and selfish and stubborn. He knew what he liked and would do what it took to get it but was otherwise was content with lying down and doing absolutely nothing. And he was so fucking adorable.

But more than anything, I worry about Mom. She’s a strong woman, infinitely stronger than I will ever be, but he’s all she has known for the last nine years. They woke up together, ate together, slept together, and he was always by her side. On several of my visits, she declined going out for a nice family dinner because she was worried he’d get lonely at home by himself. “Let’s just order pizza.” As far as I know, he was her only friend. My only comfort is that Jason is back in Seattle at the moment and she’s making a move to Korea within the year.

I don’t know if there’s an afterlife, but if there is, I hope there’s a Dog Heaven. Rest in Peace, Mangnae.

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Written by Young

June 25, 2010 at 8:12 pm

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