When our pets die, why do we say they ‘cross the rainbow bridge?’

Have you ever wondered where the ‘rainbow bridge’ phrase comes from?

OK, but what exactly is the "rainbow bridge?" (Pexels.)

It’s natural to want to post about the passing of your sweet pet to your family and friends on Facebook or Instagram, but have you ever noticed that lately, we all say some form of, “they’ve crossed (or gone over) the rainbow bridge?”

It’s pretty safe to say that the “rainbow bridge” leads to some kind of dog and cat heaven, where dogs can roam free to chase squirrels and pee and poop on whatever they want -- and cats can lounge the day away in the sunlight, but it really got us wondering from where this phrase originated.

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It’s kind of funny to think that we all just post about our beloved animals “crossing the rainbow bridge” when we have no idea where or what the “rainbow bridge” even is.

I’m prone to this, too.

When my family’s dog died, about five years ago, everyone in my family posted that our sweet Maggie “went over the rainbow bridge,” even though I legitimately had no clue where that saying came from.

Obviously, I had to do some investigating.

Luckily, the internet is a great place to type in questions like this one -- and I got some helpful results.

Turns out, the phrase comes from a poem that was published in one of those “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books that were super popular in the ‘90s.

Does anyone else remember those books? They were usually a collection of short stories, poems and articles geared to a certain type of person. They were all themed, like, “Chicken Soup for the Mom Soul” or “Chicken Soup for the Athlete Soul,” or something similar.

I distinctly remember having a “Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul,” which was full of stories of preteens dealing with all the things that preteens experience from the ages of 11 to 13 or so. I don’t remember ever feeling moved by it, but hey, it may have worked for other impressionable preteens.

But yes, according to a Washington Post article, the “Rainbow Bridge” came from a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book that was geared toward animal lovers.

According to the Post, there is some dispute over who exactly wrote the poem.

It’s often credited to an unknown author, but three people have apparently made claims to writing the poem, with one man, Paul C. Dahm, saying he holds a copyright for a variation.

The actual poem of the Rainbow Bridge is very sweet.

It tells us that our pets are having the time of their lives, running in meadows and enjoying all the food, water and sunshine they can soak up.

They are there waiting for us, and then we’ll eventually cross the rainbow bridge together with our beloved pets.

If you’re a pet owner (or you had a pet once), you’re immediately a little choked up, reading the poem. It’s very touching, and sure makes you want to cuddle your dog immediately.

Beyond being a comforting poem, it’s also turned into a money-making machine for pet owners who want to memorialize their animal somehow. Doing a quick Google search of the poem brings up multiple different ways you can buy it, like on a print or engraved onto an urn.

While most people probably just post something about their pet “crossing the rainbow bridge,” it is nice to know there are ways to memorialize your pet with the entire poem.

Speaking of, have you lost a beloved animal recently? In the form below, we welcome you to post a photo of your pet -- sort of like a tribute. Maybe it will help your grieving process, knowing that you’re not the only one going through such a tough time. Your animal will never be forgotten!

About the Author:

Jack is a Digital Content Editor with a degree in creative writing and French from Western Michigan University. He specializes in writing about movies, food and the latest TV shows.