If you have ever had a dog you love die, you know the pain associated with that loss. Your dogs aren’t just pets — they become a part of your family, and the loss is very real.
Many of us believe that our human loved ones pass on to a place where they’re happier and free of pain, and that our dogs get a peaceful afterlife, too.
When a pet does die, it’s common among animal lovers to say that your beloved dog or cat has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. This term came from a poem written by an unknown author with a theme of an otherworldly place to which pets go upon death, eventually to be reunited with their owners.
There are many interpretation of this imagery, with many variations at play as well as refusals to believe such a thing exists at all. I recently talked to some of my fellow dog lovers about their beliefs in the Rainbow Bridge.
I started with Lisa Taron. Her blog, The Pet Blog Lady, is a wealth of information on pet parenting, reviews, and products and services. Her beloved dog, Oscar, passed away recently, and Lisa believes that he is now on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, pain-free, doing “zoomie-zooms” in the grass and chasing cats. “The thought of Oscar in a place of peace and light is a wonderful comfort for me. I am certainly not a religious person, but I feel that our spirits must go somewhere. We can’t just cease to be. That would be crazy.
“We have true soul connections with our pets,” she added. “That is what makes the animal and human bond so strong and unique.”
I know many who agree with Lisa on this. The deep connection we have with our pets is what makes them so special.
I next talked to my friend Lindsay Frampton, who voiced what so many pet owners are afraid to. “I guess my biggest question is whether or not there really is a Rainbow Bridge,” she told me. “I can’t imagine not seeing my pets again.”
Lindsay has been a pet parent for most of her life and currently has both dogs and cats. “When the pope said that all God’s creatures enter the kingdom of heaven, it made my heart happy because there’s so much controversy about pets and heaven. I can’t imagine them not being there, because they just love unconditionally and deserve to be with their owners, who love them too.”
Last year, she lost her cat, who had been her best friend through grad school, sitting on her desk long into the night as she wrote term papers. “I still miss him so much and hope I’ll see him again.”
Lindsay voiced the hope of every pet parent with that statement.
Another friend, Viv Horri, has senior dogs and is aware that each day with them is precious. “I wouldn’t trade not having had them in my life to forgo the pain of losing them. It’s hard, though.”
She feels it’s harder to get past the denial and anger when you lose a beloved pet too soon due to an accident or illness, in contrast to losing one from old age after a long life together. “In many ways, the Rainbow Bridge keeps me going. The idea that my babies will be there with me when I go is my own definition of paradise. Nearly every animal I’ve met has claimed a piece of my heart. Rainbow Bridge is where my heart gets to be whole again.”
I think many would agree with Viv.
I myself grew up on a farm, and we weren’t just attached to the dogs there but the horses as well. I spent every day in the stable, and each pony I had was a best friend to me. We lost a few horses to tragedies or illnesses over the years, and each time we experienced a loss, my mom had a dream that those particular horses were draped in a white sheet and going to a better place. She took this as a sign that these beloved members of our family would live on in a place where we could join them someday.
Next I reached out to veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby. She shared that when she helps a client through the loss of a pet, she offers the only real hope that she has, and that is to lean on God. “Before I euthanize an animal, I ask the client’s permission to pray with them. No one has ever said no (in almost 20 years). My prayer is from my heart, and I usually thank God for the life of the pet and the time that we’ve shared, and [I] pray [for] a peace that passes as understanding and special comfort for the client. I’ve had many clients tell me that it meant so much to them, but I do it because I am broken, too, in those moments, and can only cry out to God for his help to be what I need to be for the pet and the family.”
She said that her clients thank her for this comfort that she offers and for taking the time to care. These clients recognize that their animals are in better care once they’ve passed.
Caren Gittleman, who blogs at Cat Chat With Caren and Cody, had never heard of the Rainbow Bridge until her soul kitty, Bobo, passed in 2007. She and Bobo had spent 18 years together and weathered moves, a divorce, and life as best friends. “When he passed, someone gave me the Rainbow Bridge poem, and I wish I could convey the enormous sense of comfort it brought to me.”
She still has the poem displayed as a reminder that there is an afterlife for pets, where she feels they are restored to good health. “I know this is personal for many, and to some the concept of the Rainbow Bridge is downright crazy, but I can’t be against something that, when presented to me at one of the most devastating times of my life, brought me so much comfort and assurance. It helped me believe that my beloved Bobo would be okay.”
Finally, I spoke to pet sitter Emmy Scammahorn, who works with many different animal species. She recently lost one of her own pet hamsters. Emmy talked to animal communicator Janet Roper after the passing of her beloved pet. She learned that her hamster was in heaven, helping others there. Emmy feels that people like Janet are a help to pet parents, offering comfort and hope. She felt the presence of her hamster for days after the passing and took that as a sign that she should be reassured.
Other pet owners that I talked to have a similar theory, believing that if you see a cardinal, it means a loved one is nearby. Perhaps those are signs that our pets are watching out for us from a better place, over the Rainbow Bridge.
Let’s hear from you, readers. Do you believe in the Rainbow Bridge? Please share in the comments.