There are several versions of the piece of writing called "Rainbow Bridge". The theme of this piece of writing (cited by some people as a poem) is similar in all versions. It describes, in picturesque and poetic terms, a waiting area to which pets go when they pass over before their caretakers. Of course, the language is poetic and not meant to be taken literally. Nonetheless, this piece of writing has given emotional support to countless grieving pet caretakers.
The most common version is cited on the internet as either "anonymous" or "author unknown". Some other, slightly different, versions have been written by named people. We give the most common versions below, with authors quoted where known. If you are an emotional person, prepare your paper tissues now....!
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....
Once again, the language should not be taken literally, as the weather as we know it does not exist on the astral. Neither is entry to the afterlife barred by an angel! Yet this version of the Rainbow Bridge is my favourite, because it pays honour to those who rescue animals. Every animal, just like a human, needs to be loved. Once again, I remind you to keep some paper tissues nearby!
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 a while to explain it to him.
"You see, that poor animal was a rescue. He was turned in to 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 existence. 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.
"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 on earth across The Rainbow Bridge."
"I think I like rescuers," said the first animal.
"So does GOD", was the reply.
When I wrote to Benny Archuleta about linking to his story above, he mentioned that he had written another Rainbow Bridge story, but with the emphasis on the reunion of pet and human. It is so good that I have added it here, as well. By now, you know to keep those paper tissues close by you....
As with most days at Rainbow Bridge, this day dawned bright and clear, without a cloud in the sky to mar the perfection of the day. But the sun seemed just a little bit brighter. The sky just a touch bluer. The grass even looked just a little bit greener. All of the animals at The Bridge knew what a day like this meant. REUNION!
Who would be the lucky animal whose person would arrive to escort him or her across The Bridge? One of the newer arrivals came bounding across the fields, jumping and playing the whole way until he reached the side of one of the animals who had been there a while.
"Have you ever seen such a glorious day?", he asked. "Come on! Let's romp and play! We can't let a day like this go to waste just waiting!"
But the other animal knew that today was going to be special. "Be patient," he told his little friend. "Today will be even more glorious than you can imagine. Today, there is going to be a reunion. Some lucky animal's wait for their person is over. Today, someone is going to cross over that Bridge."
Before long, all of the animals waiting at the Bridge were lined up along the path that led to it. Soon, the pathway itself began to glow and someone could be seen approaching in the distance. The new arrival and his friend looked up the path to see who the lucky animal was.
"Oh my!" exclaimed the older animal. "Oh my! Oh my! Oh my!". His body began to quiver and his eyes lit with a fire that the newer arrival didn't know how to interpret. His ears perked up and he got to his feet and, as he started running down the path, he yelled back to his new friend, "Wait here! This is MY person coming! Wait here for us! I'll be right back! Wait here!"
When he finally reached his person, his eyes and his heart finally were able to speak in plain language of the love he had nurtured for his person all during his long wait. His person reached down and scratched his head, and gazed lovingly into the eyes that had been so long gone, but never forgotten. And he spoke to his beloved pet of how much he had been missed and how his love had never faded for him either.
When they returned to where the newer pup was waiting, the olderanimal gazed up at his person and said "This is the animal that you and your friends asked me to watch over. I've done my best for him and he's learned well." Then he turned to his little friend and told him, "You've been a good friend. When you arrived, lonely and scared, you couldn't have known that this person and his friends had been asking for me to look for you and take care of you and show you around. Now, I ask you to listen carefully for your persons voice and do for those new arrivals as I was asked to do for you."
"You're leaving?" asked the new pup. "I must", came the reply. "But when your time comes to finally cross over the Bridge, I will see you again. I'll miss you greatly, but my time has come and my place is with him.", he said, looking up at his person once again. With that, they turned and started to cross the Bridge.
The new pup was happy for his friend, although he would miss him too. As he watched, he heard a familiar voice calling his name and saw a new arrival walking up the pathway. He knew what he had to do.
"Hi! You're new here, aren't you?"...
This is not technically a "Rainbow Bridge" title, but it is so well written that it deserves inclusion.
Can you imagine a heaven without pets?
There is a very special place where beloved pets go after they die. This is only a temporary location. But there are trees and grass and lakes, and everything they love. Here they can play and eat and sleep, even better than they did, before they died. Now, there are no aches or worries or dangers of any kind to trouble or threaten them. The only joy missing is their beloved human companion, you.
All health is restored completely, and all injuries are healed. Dogs and cats play with each other like youngsters, and they do not have time to feel lonely for you. They miss you, and with the special wisdom that animals have, they trust that this condition will get better. And they confidently wait as they frolic.
A wonderful day will come for each of them, when in the middle of playing they will suddenly feel something is different. And all their senses will be at the height of excitement and exuberance. They will sniff the air and look off in the distance where they recognize that dearly loved special presence. Then they will call out in elation, and with eyes shining and tail going wild, tear off at a full gallop, almost flying over the green grass.
Your expected arrival has been sensed, and now there is nothing that can keep the two of you apart, ever again. As you run toward each other the tears flow from your eyes. Your pet leaps into your arms, and you cling together in jubilant reunion. The joyous kisses are all over your face, and you kiss back, just as ecstatically. Your hands so lovingly caress once more the beloved fur, the head and neck and body you knew so well. And you look into each other’s loving eyes, and all those old, wonderful shared feelings are back, again.
And then something will call the both of you on, to a different field of warmth and nurture, where all the love you knew now comes to fruition. With your pet, you leave that special waiting area, walk into the main part of heaven, and begin a new existence there, together.
If you accept that pets can love us as much as we do them, then the logic is clear and cannot be denied. If you believe that there is a heaven for people, then they must be there, waiting for us, when we cross over. Heaven is love, and pets always share that with us.
Wallace Sife, Ph.D. The Loss of a Pet (Third Edition, 2005), Chapter 16
This is the only rhyming poem version which I know!
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.
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