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What if there’s no rainbow bridge?

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:


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

Pete Pallett

Sunday 23rd of February 2020

I'm not a religious person, but I do have spiritual beliefs. With regard to things we know little of; I'm willing to believe that anything is possible. I can't bear the thought of Bucko being apart from me, somewhere else, like at the Rainbow Bridge, with me not there. He was always with me, for 16 years. So very, very soon after his passing, I chose to believe that his energy, his love, was all around me, in me, in my heart, my soul, my actions. The day after Bucko's passing, a casual friend, a very wise, very humble woman offered to be my "companion in grief". I think she must have walked this road with many people before. "I'd love that, thank-you", I replied. One of the first things I thought of doing was spreading some of Bucko's ashes at a few beaches and vacation spots we loved going together. Then I thought, "NO, Bucko doesn't want to be there without me, I'll keep his ashes close to me." I asked Judy if keeping Bucko so close would impede his spiritual journey. Judy replied, "You know that you and Bucko will always be together. That is real. I don’t understand the how. I don’t have a belief system about it. But i do know that it is as real as the ground under your feet. He is as present as always. You two had an extraordinary relationship. Bucko’s spiritual journey was/is with you. He has been and will continue to be your healer. The love you guys had always bonded heaven and earth. It has never been his will to leave you."

That was very comforting to me. So I believe that Bucko's here, with me. Helping me heal. Here to share future joyous moments with me.


Sunday 6th of March 2022

@Pete Pallett, beautiful…I believe this also.

Ree Ality

Thursday 25th of July 2019

1.There is,no rainbow bridge.Dogs are incapable of any kind of abstract belief system 2.There is no forever home 3.You are NOT a parent and a pet is NOT your child. Pets are nothing more than things to be owned and occuoy time with


Sunday 6th of March 2022

@Ree Ality, how blunt and ruthless can you be? Let people believe what they want to get then through this hard time.

Leanna Boyle

Monday 25th of February 2019

I believe all humans and animals go to Heaven together. Some people think Heaven itself is a fairy tale.


Monday 19th of November 2018

The Bible does not say that God has a special place for animals. The Bible does not say there is a rainbow bridge where the animals play in the sunshine, waiting for us. Like people read the Bible and follow Israel's gospel, which is a false gospel to the body of Christ who is to follow Paul's gospel, they also say these things about our pets and it is NOT in the Bible. The Bible says not to add to or take away!!

The only requirement to getting into heaven is to BELIEVE that Jesus died, was buried, rose the third day for our justification, upon believing we are sealed by the holy spirit unto the day of redemption.

ANIMALS CANNOT DO THAT! Once they are gone, they are gone! They are a gift, for a time. Harsh Reality. And it causes me excessive pain because I face reality and all the pain that goes with it.

sandy weinstein

Friday 13th of October 2017

I hate to say this but I am so tired of hearing abt the rainbow bridge. I loved my baby, I want her to be here with me not at the rainbow bridge. when Evie passed away recently, 8-11=17, all I heard was abt how she would be waiting for me at the rainbow bridge, it is a beautiful poem. however, I want her here with me. it is used too much and I am tired of the saying. she is going to be buried with me when I die and we will be together forever.