My grandfather lived with my dad for the last few years of his life. On the day it was decided that "PopPop" would make the transition from his home of 40 years, he'd had the space heater going in his den on a hot summers day and the temperature inside had risen to over 100 degrees. He was found passed out on the floor. We don't know why he had the space heater running on such a hot day. Maybe Grandpa had taken up making pottery and decided to use the den as a kiln but since we didn't see any clay we decided he needed a bit of supervision. The only problem with taking grandpa home with us to live is that we had to take his 20 year old Chihuahua from hell known as "JimTom".
In dog years, JimTom was older than his owner. Those two "old men" were a lot alike. Neither could walk very well or see worth a darn but they understood each other with a type of knowing relationship war veterans might find at the local VFW. JimTom didn't do much but sit in PopPop's lap and stare at anyone who came within his line of vision. He was obviously checking to see if you were a spy.
Lord help if you decided to pet JimTom, for you would draw back a bloody nub from his one good tooth which he was amazingly accurate with. Perhaps it was a targeting skill he finely honed while storming the beach at Normandy or perhaps he was simply lucky. PopPop would call JimTom "his only friend" yet he was not immune from the "tooth of doom". I guess to JimTom, everyone was a Nazi spy. If touched in the wrong spot, which was apparently anywhere on his body, JimTom would carry out his snipers assignment to silently make the kill. Although crippled with arthritis, JimTom would draw on the memory of Pattons rousing 3rd army speech and find the inspiration to leap up and destroy the enemy hand that naively traversed his airspace.
After PopPop and JimTom came to live with us, JimToms body weakened a little more and he was unable to walk more than a few steps. Even though JimTom was in pain, it would have killed my grandfather if he were to lose his only friend so we just let him live out his days as comfortably as possible. JimTom had to be carried outside to use the restroom, a duty that required skill and if you were smart, heavy leather gloves.
The latrine call could come at anytime of day or night. He owned a high pitched siren that would sound from his bunker on the LazyBoy in the living room. You had to respond or the siren would continue and no amount of cotton placed in the ears would soften it's shrill tone. Most of the time, JimTom would have mercy on the enemy hands assisting him in his business but in reality he was lulling them into a false sense of security, gaining trust and biding his time till he could do the most damage.
PopPop passed away on a February day and we could tell JimTom immensely felt the loss. Not sure if he missed Grandpa or just the taste of blood. He slowed down even more and the decision was made to let him spend eternity with his only friend.
I couldn't watch it being done. I had to leave him alone at the vets office. I felt as though my cowardice and betrayal would eventually be punished by superior officers but JimTom would be far happier. He could go on reconnaissance missions and bite all the Nazi's his one tooth could reach. He could hoist all the Ale he wanted at the Moulin Rouge and if no one was watching, enjoy a playful moment chasing squirrels through the meadow, the constant pain gone from his legs at last. It felt as though I was losing part of my past but I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do. He was a soldier and his dignity was gone. He needed to go out like a man.
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