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, any animal who was special to a human goes to a 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 are always looking for the person they left behind. Once their owner passes, they are reunited and they cross the titular rainbow bridge together.
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.
This poem provides examples of:
- Afterlife Antechamber: Rainbow Bridge is this for the rest of Heaven; it is where departed animals wait to meet their owners on their way to Heaven.
- Give My Regards in the Next World: The "see you on the other side" version, with pets waiting for their owners to arrive.
- 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 Limbo for especially-beloved pets — everything is pleasant for them except that they miss their people.
- Species-Specific Afterlife: Zig-zagged. The animals live together just outside of heaven until they can be reunited with their owners, but afterwards humans and animals move on to the same Heaven together.
- Stairway to Heaven: The pets are waiting to cross the rainbow bridge into Heaven.
- Together in Death: The pets at the rainbow bridge are waiting for their special human to pass by. 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 before the rainbow bridge but it isn't discussed in the poem.