The Rainbow Bridge
is the theme of a work of poetic prose
Prose poetry is poetry written in prose instead of using verse but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery and emotional effects.-Characteristics:Prose poetry can be considered either primarily poetry or prose, or a separate genre altogether...
written some time between 1980 and 1992, whose original creator is unknown.
The theme is of a mythological place to which a pet
A pet is a household animal kept for companionship and a person's enjoyment, as opposed to wild animals or to livestock, laboratory animals, working animals or sport animals, which are kept for economic or productive reasons. The most popular pets are noted for their loyal or playful...
goes upon its death, eventually to be reunited with its owner. It has gained wide popularity amongst animal lovers who have lost a pet.
Although no major religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...
specifically refers to such a place for pets, the belief shows similarities with the Bifröst
In Norse mythology, Bifrost or Bilröst is a burning rainbow bridge that reaches between Midgard and Asgard, the realm of the gods...
bridge of Norse Mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...
The story tells of a green meadow
A meadow is a field vegetated primarily by grass and other non-woody plants . The term is from Old English mædwe. In agriculture a meadow is grassland which is not grazed by domestic livestock but rather allowed to grow unchecked in order to make hay...
located "this side of Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...
" (i.e., before one enters into it). Rainbow Bridge is both the name of the meadow and an adjoining bridge connecting it to Heaven.
According to the story, when a pet dies it goes to the meadow, having its body cured of any illnesses, frailties and/or injuries. The pet runs around and plays with other pets, missing only one thing – the love and companionship of its owner, who is still alive on Earth.
Upon the pet owner's death, on his/her journey toward Heaven s/he crosses the meadow. While doing so, the pet (along with any other pets the owner had while on Earth) spots its owner and runs to greet him/her. Reunited, the pet(s) and owner cross the Rainbow Bridge together into Heaven, never again to be parted.
Authorship and background
Having been circulated and attributed sufficiently widely around the world, the original authorship of the poem is now uncertain. The website About.com
About.com is an online source for original information and advice. It is written in English, and is aimed primarily at North Americans. It is owned by The New York Times Company....
suggests that there are three known contenders at present:
- Paul C. Dahm, a grief counselor in Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...
USA, said to have written the poem in 1981 and published it in a 1998 book of the same name.
- William N. Britton, author of Legend of Rainbow Bridge (1994, ISBN: 0964501805)
- Dr. 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, the concept of a paradise where pets wait for their human owners appeared much earlier, in the little-known sequel to "Beautiful Joe
Beautiful Joe was a dog from the town of Meaford, Ontario, whose story inspired the bestselling 1893 novel Beautiful Joe, which contributed to worldwide awareness of animal cruelty.-The real Beautiful Joe:...
", the Margaret Marshall Saunders
Margaret Marshall Saunders CBE was a Canadian author.Saunders was born in the village of Milton, Nova Scotia, though she spent most of her childhood in Berwick, Nova Scotia where her father was a Baptist minister. Saunders is most famous for her novel Beautiful Joe...
' 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 on the internet is a post
on the newsgroup
A usenet newsgroup is a repository usually within the Usenet system, for messages posted from many users in different locations. The term may be confusing to some, because it is usually a discussion group. Newsgroups are technically distinct from, but functionally similar to, discussion forums on...
, dated January 7, 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. Other posts
from 1993 suggest it was already well established and being circulated on the Internet at that time, enough for the quotation of even a single line to be expected to be recognized by other newsgroup readers.