Dec 282009


You have probably read the “Rainbow Bridge,” or one of its several variations.  Each of these is a lovely story about where your pets go after death—a beautiful place, full of all the things they love and absent any possible source of discomfort, where someday we will rejoin all of our past friends and romp in beautiful meadows where all animals love and help one another.

I do not want to be a curmudgeon, or diminish anyone’s delight in a parable; however, for me, such saccharine tales insult and trivialize reality—as though the wonder we share with our animals while they are alive is somehow not enough and we need to make up a better story; as though we need to turn our animals into vapid and immortal Disney characters in order to love them rather than simply loving them as they are.

Whatever happens to them when they die, I cannot know or alter, so I focus on what I can control—ensuring that their time in my reality is the best it can be.

One of the greatest lessons our pets can teach us is to live in the moment.  It is amazing how little my dogs seem to worry about the mortgage, or taxes, or growing old, or death.

Want your dog to have a perfect day at the beach? Take him.  Want him to bask in front of the fireplace with a perfect toy to chew on?  Make it happen.  Take him to the snow, go on a hike, teach him a new trick, rub his belly. You get at most a few thousand days with your dog, so make them great.  Your dog has simple wants, and it is amazing how many of them you can make come true with just a little effort, so make his life wonderful. Give him beautiful meadows in life, not in death.

I imagine some of my readers will protest, “the Rainbow Bridge makes me feel better, there is no harm…” and that is fine, you are obviously welcome to believe in whatever fairytales you find comforting, and I know many people have found solace in imagining their animals at the Rainbow Bridge.  I for one am going to delight in the real living animals that I find magical enough. And when they are gone, I will grieve, but ultimately I will remember the lifetime we shared, and that will be more than enough to fill me with joy.

 December 28, 2009  Posted by at 5:56 am

  5 Responses to “The Rainbow Bridge, or not…”

  1. Your blog is a treasure! I’ll be spending much time here I’m sure. Thank you for sharing your thoughts along with your well-researched information and extensive experience.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I have a somewhat amusing picture in my mind based on the rainbow bridge story/poem. In the past 16 years, I have rescued 6 dogs, usually midway through their lives (age 6 or so). 5 of them have been golden retrievers, and 4 of those died due to some form of cancer. At one point, we lost three over a span of 18 months and considered ourselves the hospice for goldens. When the first one died, I thought the rainbow bridge was sappy, but sweet. By the third one’s death 18 months later, that vision of my dog running towards me at the bridge had shifted. I figured at the rate we were going, by the time we all died, we’d have a pack of more than a dozen leaping on us in a huge dog pile. Now the mention of that poem brings visions of a massive pile of dogs 😉 I’m glad for every day with every one of my dogs. Each one leaves a massive hole in my heart when they pass, but each new one seems to find a new place for themselves open to new joyful memories. They have all been so wonderfully different. Currently, we’ve opened up our breed selection criteria to allow a sheltie into the mix. My daughter was tired of large dogs nearly her size, and requested a smaller friend. Our sheltie, Socks, complements our current Golden, Lucy, well, and they have become good friends, despite the size and temperament differences. And if I want to have a humorous vision of heaven, I see Socks standing on top of the pile of Goldens, Queen of all she surveys.

  3. I BELIEVE that I can rejoyce in every moment in the lives of my dogs and still imagine that they can be with me again at the rainbow bridge. the two are not opositional. sharon

  4. @Sharon Fricke

    Indeed, those are not mutually exclusive beliefs, and you are certainly welcome to believe and imagine whatever you want about what happens after death! I simply prefer to focus on the life that I can know and influence and not spend my time or energy speculating on what may come next…

  5. “He/she/it went over a rainbow bridge…” I think this is a saccharine, nauseating euphemism and I’m glad to see a comment on it by someone with a similar opinion. It is hard when a pet dies, but pretending to oneself that something else happened to it is doing a disservice to yourself and the pet’s memory. It’s natural to grieve, so face up to the grief and celebrate your animal for the reality it was instead of denying it in favour of a fantasy.

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