The unforgettable pet: Mike Gayle reflects on Sail the dog, ‘who taught me about the kindness of the world’

We desired a large dog, but not excessively large; a youthful dog, but not a puppy. We returned home from the rescue center with an enormous eight-year-old dog.
Although naturally shy, we routinely conversed with strangers during our walks. I emphasize “we” because while Sail, my rescued greyhound, remained mostly silent during these interactions, I keenly understood that without him, my daily chats would not occur.
My wife persistently advocated for a dog for years, but I come from a pet-free family. However, over time, my perspective softened, and we embraced Pip, a Netherlands dwarf house rabbit, into our lives, followed by another one named Milo. Although they were delightful, they were not a dog.
Every parent who, like us, had teenagers insisted that dogs were wonderful for familial bonds. The turning point came when our friends brought their rescue lurcher over. Instead of being noisy and excitable, she was remarkably calm, dozing contentedly on her bed throughout the visit. That was the kind of dog I desired.
Elated that I was open to the idea of a sighthound, my wife scheduled an appointment for us to meet a four-year-old female rescue greyhound. In theory, this dog perfectly fit our requirements: a large dog, but not excessively large; a young dog, but not a puppy.
Reader, we returned home with a massive male dog who, at eight years old, easily ranked among the oldest hounds at the center.
The beautiful blue with soulful amber eyes rose from his bed to sniff us through the bars of his kennel and immediately captured our hearts. We took him for a trial walk, and halfway through, I implored my wife to inform the shelter in case someone adopted him before we could. “He must be ours,” I declared. “He was meant for us.” Sail remained with us for the remainder of his life, a total of five and a half years.
And how marvelous those years were. I will forever remember the day he stole a substantial baguette from the dining table or when he picked up a lifeless squirrel in the park, necessitating our intervention to remove it from his mouth. Truly, those were fun times.
However, it is our walks together that I cherish most. My proximity to such a handsome, graceful dog seemed to encourage people to pause and engage in conversation. They would scratch his ears, inquire about his age, and ask about his past life as a racer. Some shared their life stories with me, while others simply exchanged pleasantries. All of them connected with me in a way that would not have happened if Sail had not been by my side.
When the end finally came last October, it was mercifully swift. His hind legs grew weak, he lost his appetite, and an emergency visit to the vet confirmed that it was time. On his final day, we treated him like the king he was: nestled on the couch, he enjoyed smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast, followed by M&S chicken for dinner. In between, he was showered with all the hugs and kisses he could ever want.
We were devastated by his passing, and the void he left in our lives is immense. He offered me a glimpse of the friendliness of the world when you wander through it with a wonderful dog by your side.

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