The Rainbow Bridge is not only associated with the Norse mythology, but is also a major theme in the specific movement poems that were published during the 1980s and 1990s which were centered about the conveying the feeling of grief and hope for better tomorrow after losing a pet. The most notable two works of art (a prose poem made by an unknown author, and a six-stanza poem rhyming pentameter couplets) speak about the otherworldly place where pets go upon death, where they can live peacefully and even eventually be reunited with their owners. Most curiously, pets can reach this otherworldly place only by crossing the rainbow bridge, a structure that very much mirrors the descriptions of the Nordic myth of Bifrost bridge.
These two pet-oriented pieces of written art managed to gain significant popularity across the world, especially among the animal lovers who have lost a pet. While the concept of the special afterlife for pets was not unheard of before popularization of the Rainbow Bridge poems, these two poems managed to comfort animal lovers all around the world with incredible success. Today, poems are celebrated not only by people who know of them and have read them but also by those who have only heard about their concepts. For example, mentioning of the rainbow bridge is a commonly used term that can be helpful in conveying your respect to the person who has lost the pet.
Additionally, modern use of pet-related rainbow bridge terms also includes online rainbow bridge-themed discussions groups, rainbow bridge pet memorials, merchandising, online ceremonies and more.
The author of the original Rainbow Bridge pets story is unknown, but there are some speculations about the possible candidates. They include the following names:
Rhyming poem was authored by spouses Diane and Steve Bodofsky. They worked in an animal rescue company as caretakers of gravely ill animals. This gave them the opportunity to meet many grieving pet owners. One of such pet owners asked them to write a poem for sympathy cards that he could distribute to other people. Poem immediately gained popularity, and via the internet, it reached all four corners of the world.
In the rainbow bridge story that was written by an unknown author in 1980s or early 1990s, dying pets are transported into a lush green meadow located at “this side of Heaven” where they can live in perfect health peacefully. They reach this far away heaven by traveling across the rainbow bridge, and their eventual destination is also called by the same name.
There, pets enjoy perfect lives – they can play with other pets and animals, have limitless access to fresh food and water, the weather is always sunny and pleasant. The only hint of the dissatisfaction is that the pets still feel a connection to their owners that they have left back on Earth.
But, owners and their pets can be reunited right there in the meadow. When the owner dies, he too travels across the rainbow bridge to the peaceful meadow. After an emotional meeting, they cross the Rainbow Bridge again, this time traveling to Heaven, never to be separated again.
Here is the complete story, as was written by an unknown author:
“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....”
A poem about Rainbow Bridge that was written by Steve and Diane Bodofsky is as follows:
“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.”
© 1998 Steve and Diane Bodofsky. All Rights Reserved.
Both the Rainbow bridge and the Norse mythology Bifrost share a common appearance and function.
In the Norse myths, Bifrost bridge has the appearance of the rainbow that transports people from Earth (known as Midgard) to the Asgard (the realm of the gods), as well as enabling gods to freely come and go from Earth. The bridge was described in surviving poems and prose books as a magical structure created from the rainbow that is imbued with the properties of shimmering, fire and instability.
In pet stories and poems, rainbow bridge is not described in detail, and it is mentioned only as a way through which spirits of the pets can reach lush green meadow where they wait for the arrival of their owners. However, artists from all around the world have visualized this bridge many times, sometimes depicting it in the form of a regular rainbow, or a more bridge-like structure that rises from the Earth toward the clear blue sky. It is important to note that Rainbow Bridge is also a name of this lush green meadow, and many visualizations are focused not only on the meadow itself but also on its gates (beyond which lies a colorful rainbow).
The earliest known mention of the “rainbow bridge" story on the internet can be tracked to the online message board “rec.pets.dogs” in the US newsgroup from 7 January 1993. That post quoted poem from most probably 1992 version of "Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League Newsletter," and responses showcased that the readers of this newsgroup were already aware of this poem, which meant that it was already well-established and circulated on the early internet at the time.
In its core, Rainbow Bridge Pets poems and stories aim to provide grieving pet owners with the belief that their pets are transported to the new version of paradise. The concept of a paradise that is exclusively aimed to provide a safe harbor for deceased pets is much older than these songs. For example, a paradise for pets appeared in Margaret Marshall Saunders' late 19th-century book, Beautiful Joe's Paradise, a sequel to the popular book “Beautiful Joe.” In this book, after death pets are carried away to a land where they can recover from the mistreating’s they experienced in life, and then they move away to true heaven via a balloon.