You may hear a grief-stricken owner say their deceased pet has “crossed the Rainbow Bridge” or say “I’ll meet you at the Rainbow Bridge” in reference to the pet.
However, have you wondered what exactly the “Rainbow Bridge” is, where it came from, and how it became so widely used?
Although there is still some speculation as to how the term came about, pet lovers do have a number of answers which we’ll cover in this article.
The “Rainbow Bridge” refers to an other-worldly place consisting of a sunny, green meadow and multi-colored, prismatic bridge the pet eventually crosses that leads it to heaven.
The term is believed to have originated in several works of poetry from the 1980s and 1990s that were meant to help relieve deceased pet owners of the pain of their loss.
According to poems, upon death, the pet finds itself in a lush, green meadow filled with sunshine. The pet’s health is fully restored and it can run and play as it did in its prime with unlimited food and water.
There, the pet waits until its human companion dies and is reunited with them in the meadow. Together, they cross the Rainbow Bridge to heaven.
The concept for the pet Rainbow Bridge may have been based on the Bifröst bridge of Norse Mythology.
The Bifrost bridge was said to be a burning rainbow bridge that reaches between Midgard (Earth) and Asgard, the realm of the gods.
The first reference to a meadow in which pets await their owners can be found in the book Beautiful Joe’s Paradise by Margaret Marshall Saunders.
Beautiful Joe’s Paradise is a sequel to the book Beautiful Joe, which was one of the first that helped raise awareness toward animal cruelty and told the story Beautiful Joe, a dog from the town of Meaford, Ontario
In Beautiful Joe’s Paradise, pets await their owners in a grassland and help one another heal from cruelty they endured during their lives. However, the book makes no mention of a Rainbow Bridge and the pets eventually ascend into heaven by balloon.
The first appearance of the Rainbow Bridge in relation to animals is believed to come from a poem by Paul C. Dahm, a grief counselor in Oregon. He wrote the first Rainbow Bridge poem in prose style as seen below:
“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….”
The popular rhyming version by Steve and Diane Bodofsky came later and was inspired by this original version.
Steve Bodofsky believed the original poem by Paul C. Dahm was great, but needed “a bit of coaxing to bring out the meter and rhyme”.
Together with his wife they created their own rhyming version of the Rainbow Bridge poem which they shared with friends shown below:
Another popular Rainbow Bridge poem that helped popularize the concept worldwide came later from Steve and Diane Bodofsky, a couple that operated a ferret rescue.
“By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.
They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.
For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.
The sadness they felt while they were apart,
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.
© 1998 Steve and Diane Bodofsky. All Rights Reserved.
Upon getting positive feedback, they collaborated with a graphic design artist to produce Rainbow Bridge Fine Art Print and Rainbow Bridge Sympathy Cards and thus began increasing popularity of the term.
It’s debated when exactly the term Rainbow Bridge was first mentioned online, but the term began circulating in articles and websites as early as 1993 and possibly before that.
The rise of pet forums and pet groups, especially public Facebook pet owner groups, helped Rainbow Bridge reach the mainstream term that it is today.
The reason the term because so popular is because most pet owners view their pet as more than just “a cat” or “a dog”.
The thought of reuniting with that specific animal companion is a heartwarming feeling in a very painful, emotional time.
In addition to printed versions of the poem in sympathy cards, there are now several “Rainbow Bridge” memorials one can buy to honor their pet or to give to someone who is grief-stricken.
In fact, Humane Goods is proud to have made our own memorial, the Rainbow Bridge Memorial Chimes.
These chimes are multi-colored and made of high-quality material for a beautiful sound. Each chime has a special remembrance seal at the bottom which catches the wind for the chime.
You can get more information about them here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G2Q1R94
Today, it’s widely accepted that all types of animals not just cats and dogs, are eligible to cross the Rainbow Bridge and make it to heaven.
For animals that did not have an owner, it’s assumed they go straight to heaven and that the Rainbow Bridge is meant for pets who wish to cross together with their still-alive human companion.
As losing an animal is a devastating event, it’s easy to see why this term gained so much popularity in just a few decades and will most likely continue to be widely used.
What do you think about the Rainbow Bridge story? Do you have any pets that have “crossed the Rainbow Bridge”? Let us know below.
Where did the idea come from? Many believe the concept has its roots in Norse mythology. The Bifröst Bridge was said to be a burning rainbow bridge that connects Midgard (Earth) and Asgard, the realm of the gods. The idea that the Rainbow Bridge is a place for pets was made popular in the 1980s and 1990s.Why do they call it the Rainbow Bridge? ›
It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of all its beautiful colors. Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows, hills and valleys with lush green grass. When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place.What do you say when a dog dies Rainbow Bridge? ›
- My mind still talks to you and my heart still looks for you but my soul knows you are at peace.
- Thanks for everything. I have a great time.
- My pets are no longer running around beside me. ...
- Forever in our minds, forever in our hearts.
- Just saying goodbye for a while till we meet again at the rainbow bridge.
According to numerous studies in the field of spiritual psychology, dogs do certainly have souls. Once they form a relationship with a person, the dog's soul joins that person's soul and, after death, follows that person there.Where is the Rainbow Bridge for pets? ›
The Rainbow Bridge is part of a larger experience on the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge in the North Carolina mountains. Pets are welcome to come with families to explore an expansive garden wonderland, with hidden trails, secret doors and picturesque landscapes.What does the Bible say about losing your pet? ›
All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. This verse may be the most appropriate when attempting to ensure a grieving pet-parent that their pet is in Heaven, as it plainly states, "all go to one place."
Christians don't believe that "going to heaven" happens automatically; it's the result of conscious decisions made during one's life. While the Bible is very specific about the requirements for human salvation, it says nothing about salvation for animals.What not to say when a pet dies? ›
It is losing a best friend or beloved family member, so you definitely don't want to go the "it's just a pet" route. That's one of the worst things you can say to someone grieving a pet, along with phrases like, "There will be other dogs/cats." It's insensitive and borderline cruel to someone experiencing a great loss.How do dogs say goodbye when dying? ›
Your dog may even stop responding to you or your family members entirely. A common reason dogs lose interest when they are dying is that their brain functions begin to shut down. They may experience mental confusion that causes them to appear detached.What is the saying when a pet dies? ›
“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” “A pet is never truly forgotten until it is no longer remembered.” “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” “Don't cry because it's over, Smile because it happened.”
There is anecdotal evidence that dogs can also sense death, but how they process and perceive this information is still being debated and researched. Dogs have a strong sense of smell that allows them to pick up on changes that can happen to a body.Can dogs see passed loved ones? ›
And wouldn't it be comforting to know that your dog is able to detect a loved one who has passed on? As much as we'd like to believe there is some truth to the idea that dogs can sense the paranormal, the scientific answer is that we just don't know.Will I see my dog again in heaven? ›
The pets that we had to say goodbye to are alive in heaven right now in their spiritual bodies and we will see them again if we accept Jesus as our Savior. Your Pet Is Not Gone Forever. I know how hard it is to lose a pet.What is dog heaven called? ›
“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.Do pets wait at the Rainbow Bridge? ›
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.What religion is the Rainbow Bridge? ›
In Norse religion, a burning rainbow bridge called the Bifrost connects Midgard (earth) with Asgard, home of the gods. Bifrost can be used only by gods and those who are killed in battle.What is the legend of Rainbow Bridge about? ›
Book Description This beautiful, touching and well-known book tells the story of the Rainbow Bridge, the idyllic haven where all pets go after they leave this world, while waiting for those they have left behind in this life. For anyone who has allowed their heart to connect with an animal, this book is a must.Is The Rainbow Bridge Religion? ›
Chief among their concerns was that Rainbow Bridge—a religious and sacred place—be protected and visited in a respectful manner.What is the Rainbow Bridge myth? ›
Bifrost, the rainbow, was the bridge leading from the Earth, called Midgard, to Asgard, the home of the gods. Only the gods could cross this bridge, which was guarded by the god Heimdall. This bridge has also been associated with the Milky Way.