The Rainbow Bridge is the theme of several works written first in 1959, then in the 1980s and 1990s, that speak of an other-worldly place where pets go upon death, eventually to be reunited with their owners. One is a short story whose original creator was long uncertain. The other is a six-stanza poem of rhyming pentameter couplets, created by a couple to help ease the pain of friends who lost pets. Each has gained popularity around the world among animal lovers who have lost a pet or wild animals that are cared for. The belief has many antecedents, including similarities to the Bifröst bridge of Norse mythology.[1]

The Rainbow Bridge is a meadow where animals wait for their humans to join them, and the bridge that takes them all to Heaven, together.

Story edit

The story tells of a lush green meadow just "this side of Heaven" (i.e., before one enters it). Rainbow Bridge is the name of both the meadow and the adjoining pan-prismatic conveyance connecting it to Heaven.

According to the story, when a pet dies, it goes to the meadow, restored to perfect health and free of any injuries. The pet runs and plays all day with the others; there is always fresh food and water, and the sun is always shining. However, it is said that while the pet is at peace and happy, it also misses its owner whom it left behind on Earth.

When its owner dies, they too arrive at the meadow, and that is when the pet stops playing, turns, sniffs at the air and looks into the distance where it sees its beloved owner. Excited, it runs as fast as it can, until owner and pet are once more united. The pet greets its former owner in great joy while the human looks into the soft, trusting eyes of the pet, who might have been gone and absent on Earth but never absent in the heart. Then side by side, they cross the Rainbow Bridge together into Heaven, to play again and be together in love and happiness, never again to be separated.[2]

Authorship edit

In February of 2023, authorship of the original story was confirmed by National Geographic magazine as Edna Clyne-Rekhy, an 82-year-old artist from Scotland.[3]

Having been circulated widely around the world, the prose poem's original authorship was uncertain. Among those who have claimed authorship are:

  • Paul C. Dahm, a grief counselor in Oregon, US, claimed to have written the poem in 1981, and published it in a 1998 book of the same name (1981, ISBN 0-9663022-0-6).
  • William N. Britton, author of Legend of Rainbow Bridge (1994, ISBN 0-9645018-0-5)
  • Wallace Sife, head of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, whose poem "All Pets Go to Heaven" appears on the association's website as well as in his book The Loss of a Pet

However, American author Paul Koudounaris, a member of The Order of the Good Death, published an article in February 2023, in which he detangled the history of the poem and provided proof, including the original handwritten manuscript of the text, which make it clear that the author is Edna Clyne-Rekhy, who wrote it as a teenager in Scotland in 1959 to mourn the death of her dog Major.[4] The article explained that she had originally considered the Rainbow Bridge to be private and kept it to herself. But she had typed out copies to give to friends, who were moved by the words and passed them on. But since these copies lacked her name, the Rainbow Bridge eventually became disconnected from its author. Eventually it was introduced to U.S. readers in 1994 when "Dear Abby", an advice column with a wide newspaper circulation, printed it in its entirety, but unattributed. It then became a staple in pet mourning circles, and later popular on the internet.

A Washington Post reporter opines that: "It is, in free verse form, 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' for an exploding $69 billion pet care industry."[5]

Background edit

The concept of a paradise where pets wait for their human owners appeared much earlier, in the little-known sequel to Beautiful Joe, Margaret Marshall Saunders' book Beautiful Joe's Paradise. In this green land, the animals do not simply await their owners, but also help each other learn and grow and recover from mistreatment they may have endured in life. But the animals come to this land, and continue to true heaven, not by a bridge but by balloon.

The first mention of the "Rainbow Bridge" story online is a post on the newsgroup rec.pets.dogs, dated 7 January 1993, quoting the poem from a 1992 (or earlier) issue of Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League Newsletter, which in turn is stated to have quoted it from the Akita Rescue Society of America.[6] Other posts from 1993 suggest it was already well established and being circulated online at that time, enough for the quotation of even a single line to be expected to be recognized by other newsgroup readers.[7]

In philosophy edit

Either the Rainbow Bridge, or a very similar belief known as Lesser Heaven, can be used in metaphysics and theology as a response to the problem of animal suffering. The problem of animal suffering is itself an attempted rebuttal to the Heaven Theodicy, which in turn is a response to the traditional problem of suffering concerning humans.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Rohrer, Finlo (13 January 2010). "How much can you mourn a pet?". BBC News. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  2. ^ "The Rainbow Bridge Poem site, not poem".
  3. ^ Nuwer, Rachel (February 22, 2023). "The Rainbow Bridge has comforted millions of pet parents. Who wrote it?". National Geographic. Archived from the original on February 22, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2023.
  4. ^ Koudounaris, Paul (February 9, 2023). "The True History of the Rainbow Bridge". Retrieved April 2, 2023.
  5. ^ Gardner, Ann Marie (May 1, 2018). "Animals: What is the rainbow bridge and why do we think dead pets cross it?". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  6. ^ "Rainbow Bridge (Was: Pets passing away)". Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  7. ^ "Breeder – Lifelong Responsibility". Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  8. ^ Christopher Kerr, Carine Mardorossian, 2020, Death Is But a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life's End, Avery Publishing