Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Problem with the Rainbow Bridge

If you have a dog or cat, or spend any time on the internet, you've almost certainly come across the prose-poem called, "Rainbow Bridge." 

It's very sweet, and sentimental, and can make grown men sniffle, yet all I can do is take great solace in the knowledge that there is no such place, because, if there were, I'm afraid it wouldn't be nearly as nice as it's made out to be.

Here's the piece, of unknown authorship, for those who have somehow escaped it thus far:

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 and 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 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. The bright eyes are intent; the eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to break away 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. 


After reading these beautiful paragraphs, who wouldn't want to meet their dearly departed pets there on the banks of the Rainbow Bridge? 

Me, for one.

If I died today, there would be forty or fifty dogs and cats waiting for me at Rainbow Bridge, all demanding my undivided attention, each considering me their one and only master. Imagine the hell that will break lose when Holden and Levi each rush to be first to see me. Poor Holden will get pulverized.

I've "owned" all my dogs and cats with Karen. Did they all meet her at Rainbow Bridge? And what about Arthur? He was Karen's Seeing Eye dog, but she died before he did? Is he sitting at the banks of the Rainbow Bridge psychotically guarding his Frisbee, waiting for me to throw it, or is he on the other side, pushing his way between Karen and Lyric? And, assuming poor Levi goes before I do, is he going to be forced to wait for me with Arthur, his tormentor, until I finally show up?

No, Rainbow Bridge is one of those things that works fine in theory, like communism or having sex with "just friends." It's only when you get to the nitty-gritty details and necessary implications and repercussions that you see the glaring flaws in these seemingly perfect ideas.

Of course we want to be with the pets we love forever. It's only natural. But under the Judea-Christian-Islamic system, animals don't have souls, and certainly won't enjoy a heavenly afterlife like that described in the Rainbow Bridge. It's peculiar, then, that this particular writing seems to appeal especially to Christians. 

According to Wikipedia (the source of all truth) the Rainbow Bridge has similarities with the Bifröst bridge of Norse Mythology, which was the bridge to Norse Heaven. Surely that's not where our American pets wait for us. So where did this idea of Rainbow Bridge come from? Could it just be made up, like every other answer offered regarding what happens after death?

What happens after death, to us and our pets, is the big question. Are we reunited forever in the afterlife, is there a special paradise for animals, or do we all molder for eternity in the cold earth?

I say we molder, but it doesn't matter. As long as each of us live, the love we had for each pet in our life lives on with us. As I wrote yesterday, Holden, fifteen years dead, will always be my dog. So will Lyric and Vinnie and all of them. I don't need to wait until I die and get to the Rainbow Bridge to be with them again. I'm always with them.

All the dogs and cats I've ever had are with me, inside me, now, and that sure beats the huge dog pack and clowder of cats that would be waiting to mob for me at the bridge. There would be so many jumping at me so fast, that I'd surely fall off, into who knows what sort of limbo.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands


DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Interesting insights into this. The theory of the Rainbow Bridge makes people feel better about the loss. Many people need to know there is something after death. I don't profess to know why but I think it's an interesting need.

Daisy said...

I still hope I go to the Bridge when my time on earth is over!

Jaya said...

Ahem... You wrote:

"All the dogs and cats I've ever had are with me, inside me, now, and that sure beats the huge dog pack and clowder of cats that would be waiting to mob for me at the bridge."

I say if they can get along with each other there inside of you, then they can also do just fine hanging out together at the Rainbow Bridge. It is even more spacious there than in your insides. Arthur especially will enjoy the Rainbow Bridge more than your insides, as, between the two of those locations, it's a much better place to play catch with a frisbee.

Rich Sands said...

Um...I didn't mean REALLY inside me. How would they fit? We stopped eating their hearts sometime after Ruby passed, so that's obviously not what I meant. It was a figure of speech is all. Gee, your dumb! Oh, and you HAVE to capitalize Frisbee! Frisbee is a registered trade name of the Whammo Corp. If you want to use lower case, you must call it a generic flying disc. Those Whammo lawyers are bastards, and you don't want them on your ass.

Victor Tabbycat said...

I've had some of the same irreverent, overly-practical thoughts about The Bridge. I see it as a non-denominational way to say our pets never really leave us forever. The pain of loss eases, but the memories remain forever. What happens after death is a Mystery, but it is human nature to hope that some part of us continues to exist and therefore, the memories of our pets continue to exist. On the other hand, I'd rather not spend eternity being growled at by Bonnie Underfoot, Attack Tabby.
~ Tabbymom Jen (borrowing Victor's ID)

Kerry said...

Rich, I just spotted the first grammatical error I've ever seen in your writings. And unfortunately it was in a sentence immediately preceding the one you corrected poor Jaya about capitalizing Frisbee. Yes, Rich, "Gee, your dumb" was either incomplete and could have been finished as "Gee, your dumb comment was stupid" or you actually meant "Gee, you're dumb".

As always, I'm just looking out for you.

You're buddy,


Anonymous said...

Hah, hah... Rich loves constructive criticism like that, Kerry. You're a good friend.

Anonymous said...

When we had to put our beloved 18 year old "boy" to sleep, it happened to be one of his "better days" and the sense of guilt and betrayal nearly killed me. As he was leaving me, I said "mommy and Lucky are going home" and he paddled his feet in anticipation of getting the hell away from the vet's.

I was inundated with THE RAINBOW BRIDGE sent to me by people assured that it was the answer to my sorrow. It only made me hate THEM as well as myself.

Our inherent sense of importance lends itself to the idea/superstition/hope that there is a great award waiting for us. All we have to do is die to get it.

My boy is forever gone as I, too, will be soon.

The only "reward" will be a lack of pain, but I won't get the joy of even being aware of it.

daisysalter said...

They are not in their earthly form anymore than you will be. And animals most certainly do have souls--far kinder than many humans. I think you will be in a for a sweet and humbling surprise: for they are also far wiser than are we and certainly will not act up. It's Heaven, not a rumble. :-)

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