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Sunday, 28 January 2007
-------------  US News
-------------  Written by: Natalie Pompilio

Waiting at 'Rainbow Bridge'

It's a story, a poem, a "lovely thought" that spans rivers of tears shed by those who mourn lost pets.

By Natalie Pompilio
Inquirer Staff Writer
The Philadelpha Inquirer
Posted on Sun, Jan. 28, 2007

It's not Shakespeare. In fact, in terms of writing quality, it ranks somewhere near tacky bodice-rippers and teen fan fiction. It's maudlin, simplistic, and not something that I, a quasi-professional critic and cynic, should ever have anything to do with.

But damn if it doesn't make me cry every time I read it.

I'm talking about "The Rainbow Bridge." If you've ever loved and lost a pet, you've probably read it. There are a bunch of versions, but the gist of the piece is this: Your beloved pet dies and goes to a place "just this side of heaven" called the Rainbow Bridge. It's beautiful there. He has plenty of food and water. Sick pets become well and maimed ones are strong again. All the animals play happily together, but they're all sad about one thing - they miss you.

Then one day, your pet brightens. Tails wag, ears perk, he runs away from the partying pack.

And, as one version goes:

"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 the Rainbow Bridge together... . "

I first saw this in July 2005 when one of my cats died and the vet sent a sympathy card. I approached my reading callously. I ended it sobbing. What kind of sick, sick person would write something like this? Were they trying to kill me? (Full disclosure: I got very teary just copying that paragraph. Damn you, Rainbow Bridge!)

So I began to do some research.

A lot of people knew about "The Rainbow Bridge." A lot of people had the same reaction I did. An acquaintance has forbidden all mention of the Bridge in her home because it makes her so sad. One journalist friend had a family member read from it as they scattered her cat's ashes. Her father, she reports, was in tears.

It was like learning of some secret cult: Those Who Know "The Rainbow Bridge." Instead of a secret handshake, we identify each other by saying, "Rainbow Bridge?" If the other person winces in pain, we know we're cult mates.

The author of "The Rainbow Bridge" is usually credited as "Anonymous." According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, the piece first appeared on the Internet in 1993, but may have been in circulation long before that. A current Google search (Rainbow Bridge and pets) reveals links to about 900,000 Web pages. You can buy cards and plaques imprinted with "The Rainbow Bridge." There are T-shirts and pillows.

"People all over the country are aware of that poem," said Sandi Herman, a Philadelphia social worker and health educator who offers grief counseling to those who have lost pets. "People in other countries are aware of that poem. It's one of those collective feelings. You feel very lonely when you're grieving, and the idea that you're somehow connected to others is comforting."

Herman - who calls "The Rainbow Bridge" "a killer" and admits to choking up any time she hears it - sometimes gives a copy of it to clients.

"It depends on the person and where they are in their grief," she said. "There are people who are probably not ready for it."

Grieving for a lost animal can be a difficult process, she said. Even though pets are being treated more like children every day - there are entire specialty stores dedicated to pet nonessentials like gilded collars and specialty tags, and even pet clothing sections in mainstream stores like Target - mourning the loss of a pet isn't considered completely legitimate.

"People are almost embarrassed about how much they love their animals and how devastated and sad they are," Herman said. "People in our society have difficulty talking about death anyway. With an animal, they're even less aware people might be suffering in some way."

When Martin Morley lost his ferret, D.J., on Feb. 13, 2004, the Bucks County man received a sympathy card with a rhyming version of "The Rainbow Bridge" from the folks at Last Chance Ferret Rescue in Southampton. It changed his life.

"I held that card and cried like a baby," Morley said. "It was that poem and the act of kindness of a total stranger. I held onto that card and said, When the time is right, I'll get involved" with the organization.

Morley now spends an average of $4,000 a month paying veterinary bills for the Rescue, "plus whatever is needed," he said. He personally cares for more than 50 ferrets, many of which have serious medical conditions and require individualized care.

"It all came from one bead of kindness and that one poem, 'The Rainbow Bridge,' " said Morley, who runs an electrical repair company. "People are like, 'You're stupid.' But when you look at some of these guys, you see how grateful they are. You know there's got to be a better place for them, because they were such good little animals."

Last Chance Ferret Rescue's Steve and Diane Bodofsky are the people who had reached out to Morley. Steve Bodofsky has rejiggered the prose into six rhyming verses, which he has copyrighted, and made into cards. The basic story is the same, and in the final verse, in which owner and pet are reunited, he writes, "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."

"The last line is the line that smacks you and smacks you hard," Steve Bodofsky said. "It's a lovely thought, the idea that these animals that have given us so much love during our lifetimes can then share eternity with us. You can't ask for a better thought than that. You can't be an animal person and not feel for that."

Erica Morgan, a veterinarian at Society Hill Animal Hospital in Center City, said some people grieve so deeply for their pets that she worries about them and sometimes thinks she and her colleagues are the only ones these people feel comfortable sharing their pain with.

"The rest of society, they're among non-pet owners or people who have not really loved an animal in that way," she said. "There's no acceptable place to have that level of grief. You don't get bereavement leave when your pet dies."

Morgan personally is not a Rainbow Bridge fan, even if it can pull a tear from her eye. ("It's like watching a Hallmark commercial, you're grossed out and crying at the same time," she says.) She usually prefers to give clients one of two poems that have to do with euthanasia, "From Friend to Friend" by Karen Clouston or the anonymously written "If It Should Be."

Since euthanasia is such a painful decision, the poems help because they reassure pet owners they're doing the right thing. As "If It Should Be" reassures the reader: "I know in time, you too will see, / It is a kindness you do me, / Although my tail its last has waved, / From pain and suffering, I've been saved... . Do not grieve that it should be you, / Who has to decide this thing to do. / We've been so close, we two, these years, / Don't let your heart hold any tears."

Thanks, Dr. Morgan. Just what I needed.

Quest for The Rainbow Bridge

From Franny Syufy,
Your Guide to Cats.

The Mystery of the Origin of The Rainbow Bridge

 

Perhaps more than any other written piece in history, The Rainbow Bridge has brought comfort and solace to pet owners trying to cope with the grief of loss of a beloved cat, dog, or other pet. It is almost impossible to read this poem without tears flowing, even after having read it dozens of times, because we all have one or more "Rainbow Kitties and Doggies" we envision there.

The story describes a bucolic place "just this side of heaven," where dogs and cats, bunnies and birds, all live peacefully among the gentle meadows and hills, running and cavorting together in the lush green grass. They are all young again, in perfect health, and want for nothing - except the humans they loved. One by one, they wait for us at the Bridge, and when our time comes their eyes light up in indescribable joy as we join them, to cross the Rainbow Bridge together.

Who among us would not find peace and solace from the belief that such a place exists? I surely do, and there is nothing on earth that will convince me otherwise.

Legends and Real Rainbow Bridges

The inspiration for the poem is generally acknowledged to come from an ancient Norse legend. Bifrost, the rainbow bridge was a bridge the gods used to travel to and from earth, and where worthy Norse warriors crossed to Valhalla.

A naturally formed Rainbrow Bridge exists in the United State, in southern Utah. It is not surprising that this glorious bridge is held sacred by Native American cultures.

Another Rainbow Bridge legend is told by the Chumash people, who originated on Santa Cruz Island. It is a rather sad story with an uplifting ending involving dolphins.

A modern version of a 12th century Chinese Rainbow Bridge was constructed in a joint effort involving NOVA, civil engineers from Boston, MIT students, and a number of Chinese advisors. The story, along with drawings and photos, was detailed in this issue of the Civil Engineering Magazine.

The Rainbow Bridge for Animals

There's no denying that the most famous Rainbow Bridge of all is the one we think of when a beloved pet passes over. The Rainbow Bridge allows us to keep our kitties alive in our hearts for as long as we live, and we do not really dread death because we know we'll be united with them. For almost as long as there has been a World Wide Web, The Rainbow Bridge poem has appeared on dozens, perhaps hundreds of web sites with "author unknown," or "anonymous," as the credit. In fact, if you "Google" "Rainbow Bridge," you'll be rewarded with some 800,000 hits.

Who Is the Real Author of The Rainbow Bridge

This question is clouded in mystery, since the poem has been copied so many times on the Internet as "author unknown," that it seems to have moved into the area of public domain. I have the poem reprinted on this site too, originally as "author unknown," until a friend emailed me with the indentity of the person he believed to be the true author.

Apparently, however, it appears that at least two other writers lay claim to being the original author, or to having written something remarkably similar to The Rainbow Bridge, as we know it. The known contenders presently are:

  • Paul C. Dahm
    Last known to live in Lincoln City, OR Dahm is a grief counselor. He is said to have written the poem in 1981, copyrighted it in 1994, and published it a book titled "The Rainbow Bridge" in 1998.
  • William N. Britton
    Mr. Britton's book, Legend of Rainbow Bridge, copyright and published in 1994 , has lovely illustrations by Ron Dawson. Mr. Britton and his late wife were co-founders of Companion Golden Retriever Rescue in West Jordan, Utah.
  • Dr. Wallace Sife
    Also a professional grief counselor, Dr. Sife heads the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, and his version of the poem, titled, "All Pets Go to Heaven," appears on that organization's site. Dr.Fife's poem also is featured in his book, The Loss of a Pet.

I've never forgotten something I learned years ago, when I majored in music in college. Our much-respected teacher, Mr. Froelich, taught us that music IS. That is, music is out there in the air somewhere, and it only takes a talented composer to snatch it out of the stratosphere and put it on paper, to be transformed by instruments and voice to the glorious musical pieces that sing in our hearts. So, in effect, the writing of music is not creation, but is discovery. Mozart did not create his haunting Requiem; he discovered it.

I have a belief that the Rainbow Bridge is very similar to music in that respect. It has always been there; it just took an enlightened soul (or three) to discover it.

Our quest for the real author of The Rainbow Bridge may never be undeniably resolved, but one true thing rings clear: This sweet story will continue to bring peace and comfort to thousands of animal lovers through the ages to come. And one-by-one we will some day be reunited with our loved cats and dogs that have gone before.

A place of Peace & Joy!

5 versions



The Rainbow Bridge


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....

Author unknown...


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PUPPIES WELCOME AT RAINBOW BRIDGE

On the morning of September 11, 2001, there was an unprecedented amount of activity at the Rainbow Bridge. Decisions had to be made. They had to be made quickly. And, they were.

An issue, not often addressed here, is the fact that many residents really have no loved one for whom to wait. Think of the pups who lived and died in hideous puppy mills. No one on earth loved or protected them. What about the many who spent unhappy lives tied in backyards? And, the ones who were abused. Who are they to wait for?

We don't talk about that much up here. We share our loved ones as they arrive, happy to do so. But we all know there is nothing like having your very own person who thinks you are the most special pup in the Heavens.

Last Tuesday morning a request rang out for pups not waiting for specific persons to volunteer for special assignment... An eager, curious crowd surged excitedly forward, each pup wondering what the assignment would be.

They were told by a solemn voice that unexpectedly, all at once, thousands of loving people had left Earth long before they were ready.

All the pups, as all pups do, felt the humans' pain deep in their own hearts. Without hearing more, there was a clamoring among them - "May I have one to comfort?" "I'll take two, I have a big heart." "I have been saving kisses forever."

One after another they came forward begging for assignment. One cozy-looking fluffy pup hesitantly asked, "Are there any children coming?

I would be very comforting for a child 'cause I'm soft and squishy and I always wanted to be hugged." A group of Dalmatians came forward asking to meet the FireFighters and be their friends. The larger working breeds offered to greet the Police Officers and make them feel at home.

Little dogs volunteered to do what they do best, cuddle and kiss. Dogs who on Earth had never had a kind word or a pat on the head, stepped forward and said, "I will love any human who needs love."

Then all the dogs, wherever on Earth they originally came from, rushed to the Rainbow Bridge and stood waiting, overflowing with love to share - each tail wagging an American Flag.


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KITTENS WELCOME AT RAINBOW BRIDGE


On the morning of September 11, 2001, there was an unprecedented amount of activity at the Rainbow Bridge. Decisions had to be made. They had to be made quickly. And, they were.

An issue, not often addressed here, is the fact that many residents really have no loved one for whom to wait. And, the ones who were abused. Who are they to wait for?

We don't talk about that much up here. We share ones as they arrive, happy to do so. But we all know there is nothing like having your very own person who thinks you are the most special kitten in the Heavens.

Last Tuesday morning a request rang out for kittens not waiting for specific persons to volunteer for special assignment.. An eager, curious crowd surged excitedly forward, each kitten wondering what the assignment would be.

They were told by a solemn voice that unexpectedly, all at once, thousands of people died on Earth long before they were ready.

All the kittens, as all kittens do, felt the humans' pain deep in their own hearts. Without hearing more, there was a clamoring among them - "May I have one to comfort?" "I'll take two, I have a big heart." "I have been saving tail-swishes forever."

One after another they came forward begging for assignment.

One cozy-looking fluffy kitten hesitantly asked, "Are there any children coming?
I would be very comforting for a child 'cause I'm soft and squishy and I always wanted to be hugged."

Little cats volunteered to do what they do best, cuddle and rub against legs.

Cats who on Earth had never had a kind word or a pat on the head, stepped forward and said, "I will love any human who needs love."

Then all the cats, wherever on Earth they originally came from, rushed to the Rainbow Bridge and stood waiting, overflowing with love to share. .

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A really beautifully done video version.

http://cats.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=cats&cdn=homegarden&tm=22&f=0
0&su=p284.8.150.ip_&tt=2&bt=1&bts=0&zu=http%3A//www.indigo.org/rainbowbridge_ver2.html

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A Rainbow Bridge Story

Unlike most days at Rainbow Bridge, this day dawned cold and gray, damp as a swamp and as dismal as could be imagined. All of the recent arrivals had no idea what to think, as they had never experienced a day like this before. But the animals who had been waiting for their beloved people knew exactly what was going on and started to gather at the pathway leading to The Bridge to watch.

It wasn't long before an elderly animal came into view, head hung low and tail dragging. The other animals, the ones who had been there for a while, knew what his story was right away, for they had seen this happen far too often.

He approached slowly, obviously in great emotional pain, but with no sign of injury or illness. Unlike all of the other animals waiting at The Bridge, this animal had not been restored to youth and made healthy and vigorous again. As he walked toward The Bridge, he watched all of the other animals watching him. He knew he was out of place here and the sooner he could cross over, the happier he would be. But, alas, as he approached The Bridge, his way was barred by the appearance of an Angel who apologized, but told him that he would not be able to pass. Only those animals who were with their people could pass over Rainbow Bridge. With no place else to turn to, the elderly animal turned towards the fields before The Bridge and saw a group of other animals like himself, also elderly and infirm. They weren't playing, but rather simply lying on the green grass, forlornly staring out at the pathway leading to The Bridge. And so, he took his place among them, watching the pathway and waiting.

One of the newest arrivals at The Bridge didn't understand what he had just witnessed and asked one of the animals that had been there for awhile to explain it to him.

"You see, that poor animal was a rescue. He entered rescue just as you see him now, an older animal with his fur graying and his eyes clouding. He never made it out of rescue and passed on with only the love of his rescuer to comfort him as he left his earthly existance. Because he had no family to give his love to, he has no one to escort him across The Bridge."

The first animal thought about this for a minute and then asked, "So what will happen now?" As he was about to receive his answer, the clouds suddenly parted and the gloom lifted. Approaching The Bridge could be seen a single person and among the older animals, a whole group was suddenly bathed in a golden light and they were all young and healthy again, just as they were in the prime of life.

"Watch, and see.", said the second animal. A second group of animals from those waiting came to the pathway and bowed low as the person neared. At each bowed head, the person offered a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears. The newly restored animals fell into line and followed him towards The Bridge. They all crossed The Bridge together.

"What happened?"

"That was a rescuer. The animals you saw bowing in respect were those who found new homes because of his work. They will cross when their new families arrive. Those you saw restored were those who never found homes. When a rescuer arrives, they are allowed to perform one, final act of rescue. They are allowed to escort those poor animals that they couldn't place with families on earth, across The Rainbow Bridge."

"I think I like rescuer's", said the first animal.

"So does GOD", was the reply.

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The "Rainbow Bridge Story" above, was written by 'Benny Archuleta', http://dachshund-rescue.org/ and the listowner of the Lovedachs@yahoogroups.com e-mail community. It is reproduced here with his permission and is dedicated to everyone who has ever rescued a senior dachshund. The orginal publication of this story can be seen at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lovedachs/message/8581, which is a page in the lovedachs@yahoogroups.com archives.

                    Thank you, Benny... from everyone who has ever rescued an animal in need!
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The song is 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' by  Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
May he "rest in peace".