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When Pets Cross the Rainbow Bridge

Updated on February 9, 2012

When pets cross the "rainbow bridge" their souls depart this earth and await for us on the other side. Are there pets in heaven? How could it be heaven without them? I find it difficult to believe that God (or whatever higher power you believe in) would give us these wonderful creatures only to keep us from them in the afterlife. Pets teach us so many things about being a better human, that humans form such close bonds with their pets is no great surprise.

When pets cross the rainbow bridge, it is a difficult thing to bear, and for some it's even more difficult than the loss of a human friend or family member. I know I've certainly been accused of being more fond of my dog than I am of some people, and I won't deny it. Good pets are awesome, in the fact that they love unconditionally, listen to us without judgement, and live to please. But what happens to the remains left behind when pets cross the rainbow bridge, temporarily leaving us for a higher plane of existence?

Backyard Funerals

The most popular way to care for the remains left behind when pets cross the rainbow bridge is to bury it in the back yard. Former neighbors installed a series of half a dozen or so stepping stones alongside the lovely rose garden in their back yard, each one memorializing a beloved furry friend. A job transfer left the family with the decision of digging up the remains to be reburied at their new home, or leaving them behind. They chose the latter, despite facing emotions associated with saying goodbye to the critters all over again. Fortunately the new owner, a single fellow with a couple of cats of his own, was a major animal lover and blessed with a green thumb to boot. His own personal experiences of having to cope when pets cross the rainbow bridge made him the perfect person to reside in the home, and care for the very special rose garden. With each new season he took a picture of the plot, many timed at either sunrise or sunset in a way that the natural light turned the standard photograph into a lovely work of art. He printed a copy, jotted a short note, and sent both off to the other family. It was a touching tribute that the other family cherished and it made their move to a new home easier than it would have been otherwise.

Animal Cremation

Pet cremation services are available to veterinary clinics and private owners alike when pets cross the rainbow bridge. Pet cremation is not only a safe and ethical choice, but many find it to be a more ethical way to handle the remains of their beloved animals. Some establishments offer more options, right up to the full funeral service package. This is not as odd or wacky as it sounds. A family member who works in a funeral home often tells us of inquiries they receive about pricing for pet funerals, including visitation services, pet coffins, and even urns in which to place their pet's ashes. Some companies even offer cremation jewelry, rings and necklaces that hold a bit of the pet's ashes. When pets cross the rainbow bridge, cremation ensures that wherever we go, our pet will not be far away.

Pet Cemetery

Quite different than Stephen King's Pet Sematary, when pets cross the rainbow bridge and are buried in these grassy hillsides they won't be coming back to haunt their owners. The term pet cemetery brings to mind acres of manicured landscape stretching out to create a prestigious final resting place for our beloved animals. These memorial grounds are in some cases visited more often than ones with human remains. A former co-worker and her dog traveled to the local pet cemetery on every major holiday without fail. The two spent hours visiting the dog's deceased parents while ignoring other cemeteries they passed on the way there, even though those held the remains of her parents, grandparents, and a few other assorted family members.

When pets cross the rainbow bridge, it leaves behind terrible feelings of grief that is unique for each person. No matter what choice someone makes regarding the remains when pets cross the rainbow bridge, there are other factors to consider. What happens to the plot in the back yard if the owner has to move? What happens to the ashes of the pet if the owner passes away? The choice of what to do when pets cross the rainbow bridge is difficult, and those who simply cannot cope should seek support from family and friends, or even their pastor or a grief counselor.

Rest assured that whatever decision we humans make when it comes time for our pets to cross the rainbow bridge, they are likely too busy frolicking in the green, grassy field with others critters who went before them to worry about it.


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  • Johan Olivier profile image

    Johan Olivier 5 years ago from Klerksdorp

    That is the most beautifull poem i have ever read.My Chihuahua had bone cancer and the vet had to put him to sleep.A week later i had a very vivid dream off him where he was waiting for me at the stairs off a huge mansion.All my dogs where there which i knew since childhood,He was sitting right in front.I felt at home there but someone called me back and i woke up.At least i know now that he is with all my other pets waiting for me to come home.

  • MegStarr profile image

    MegStarr 6 years ago from Texas

    Thank you for such a beautiful Hub. I had a tear in my eye while reading part of this, my husband gave me afunny look. It touched me in away. I have had gone threw four pet losses. Im a big animal lover and unfortantly there is the price to pay. Having to deal with the death of your beloved furry best friend.

  • catgypsy profile image

    catgypsy 6 years ago from the South

    From one animal lover to another, thanks for this Hub. We will be with them again someday.

  • Kim Cheshire profile image

    Kim Cheshire 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing this heartfelt article. I related to the story about having to leave a home where your pet friends are buried. It is extremely difficult to have to say goodbye for a second time.

  • penelopae profile image

    Becky Muth 6 years ago from Harpers Ferry, WV

    Thank you for your positive comment, Esmeowl12! I love that video, too. Sorry to hear about your kitty, but I know he had a wonderful life with you.

  • Esmeowl12 profile image

    Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

    Thank you for a lovely article. A fellow animal lover introduced me to the "rainbow bridge" when my 16-year-old tuxedo cat died. It was SO comforting. I also love your video choice. That is one of my favorite Cosby episodes.