One of my favorite movies growing up was “All Dogs go to Heaven.”

I loved Charlie, the shepherd-looking dog, and the scene where he gets a bunch of puppies to share a pizza (here’s the clip).

But even at that young age, I don’t remember actually believing in a heaven or that dogs would go there if it existed.

I know this post will make me sound insensitive, but a part of life with dogs is, unfortunately, losing dogs.

So here it is:

I don’t believe in a “rainbow bridge.”

I don’t believe Kacy and Brittni – my past loves – are waiting for me in a meadow so we can all cross a bridge to heaven together.

What if there is no rainbow bridge

And when that day comes where Ace also dies, people will say things out of kindness, like, “You’ll see him at the bridge” or “He’s waiting at the bridge.”

Only, I don’t think my dogs will be waiting at any bridge, as wonderful as it sounds to be greeted by a lifetime of wagging, slightly neurotic sporting dogs.

This doesn’t mean I’m right or that you should agree. I’m just saying we all grieve differently, and we all view death differently.

What is the rainbow bridge?

When people use the term “rainbow bridge” they are generally using it as a symbol to represent whatever they believe happens to a dog’s soul as she transitions to an afterlife. Humans have obviously been telling stories of meeting animals in an afterlife for thousands of years.

The idea of the “rainbow bridge” seems to have first been mentioned within poetry sometime between 1980 and 1992, according to Wikipedia. The author of the poetry is not known.

All dogs Go to Heaven Rainbow Bridge

According to the poem, when a pet dies, he goes to the meadow on “this side of heaven” restored to perfect health and free of injuries where he runs and plays and waits for his special person. Then, eventually, the two are reunited and they walk into heaven together.

It makes sense the idea of the rainbow bridge gained popularity only recently, right around the time people also started “rescuing” dogs (vs. “getting a dog” or “adopting a dog”).

Grieving in our own ways

Just as we will all love and raise our dogs in unique ways, we will also experience loss in our own ways.

This makes us all the same, but also different.

Here I am with my family’s two golden retrievers in 2005:

golden-retrievers

As someone who writes about dogs, fosters dogs and works with dogs, I am almost always aware of someone grieving over a pet, and I am always sad for their loss, often struggling with what to say.

It’s usually something along the lines of “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Or, if I knew the dog, something like, “I’m thankful I got to know Misty.”

I do not mention a bridge.

Yet, “rainbow bridge” is so recognizable and widely used, it could almost be used interchangeably with words of kindness such as “Sorry for your loss,” “Rest in peace” or “Thinking of you.”

One more soul. Waiting at the bridge.

Do you believe in some sort of a rainbow bridge?

Related blog posts:

What did people do for you when your dog died?

How do you move on when a dog dies?

Planning for the end of your pet’s life – questions for families

What do dog walkers do when a client’s dog dies?

This post was inspired by author and blogger Jon Katz, and his posts about the rainbow bridge as well as his short story “Luther and Minnie in Heaven” from the book “Dancing Dogs.”

What if there's no rainbow bridge