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Literature / Rainbow Bridge

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Just this side of heaven there's a place called rainbow bridge

Rainbow Bridge is a famous poem about what happens to pets after they die. There are two different poems: a prose poem and a rhyming poem.

Upon death, pets go to a special meadow near heaven where they play together. It's always sunny there and no one is ever troubled or in pain. The pets are happy and healthy, but they miss the owners they left behind. Once their owner passes, the two are reunited and they cross the titular rainbow bridge together into heaven.

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You have may have heard of this poem if you've worked with animals or been on websites themed around animals. The poem gets cited constantly but, surprisingly, the actual origin of the original poem is uncertain. It is speculated to have been written in the 1980s or 1990s.

The six-stanza rhyming poem, however, originates from Diane and Steve Bodofsky. They ran a ferret rescue and wrote the poem for grieving owners. A local vet asked them if they could put the poem onto cards for his patients, and the popularity of the poem soon spread nationwide and then internationally.


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This poem provides examples of:

  • Healthy in Heaven: It's mentioned that animals become fit and young again once they die.
  • Heaven: Despite common belief, "rainbow bridge" itself isn't "heaven for animals". It's outside of heaven and acts as a sort-of purgatory for especially beloved pets.
  • Species-Specific Afterlife: The animals live together just outside of heaven until they can be reunited with their owners.
  • Stairway to Heaven: The pets cross rainbow bridge to get into heaven.
  • Together in Death: The pets are perfectly happy, however they miss their owners. In the end, the owner is reunited with their beloved pet and they go to heaven together.
  • World of Mammals: The poem mostly reflects on mammalian pets, like dogs and cats. Presumably there's places for fish and other animals in rainbow bridge but it isn't discussed in the poem.
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