picture of clouds and a rainbow with text over top

The Rainbow Bridge has been a source of comfort for me and many of my dog friends over the years as we have lost dogs.  The vision of our dogs restored to their youth and health having a great time again and then in the future being able to hold them again gives us hope to hang on to as we process the loss of our best friends.

In 1994, the nationally syndicated newspaper column, Dear Abby, mentioned the Rainbow Bridge poem and it has since helped millions of pet owners grieve their pets. Every time I have been sent the Rainbow Bridge poem or have seen it on the internet, credit goes to an anonymous writer and each version has been just a little different.

Rainbow Suncatcher

History of the Poem

Have you ever wondered who penned one of the most heartfelt poems that helps pet owners in their grieving process? Art historian and cat owner, Paul Koudounaris, did some research and managed to find the original poet decades after the Rainbow Bridge Poem became famous. Edna Clyne-Rekhy, a Scottish artist and animal lover who is now in her 80’s is the author.  Even though she is well-traveled, she failed to notice how popular her poem had become.  In 1957 at age 19, she had just lost Major, her Labrador Retriever. Her mother told her to write down how she was feeling about the loss.

She says that as she sat down to write, the words just flowed through her head like she was talking to Major.  When Koudounaris met with her, she showed him the handwritten original.  Over the years, she had given out handmade copies without her name on them to friends who had lost pets.

Now there are several different versions of the poem. People have been inspired to put something of themselves in the versions. In the patent office, there were more than 25 people who claimed the poem and there are many more who just wrote their own version. Some are rhyming, others sound more like a parable. Click the banner below to download NCCF’s free printable version of the rainbow bridge poem for dogs.


Why It Resonates: The Special Relationship with Dogs

It is natural to recognize your dog’s impact on your life and when they are gone it becomes a major source of reflection.  The poem speaks to dog owners because it adequately describes you and your dog’s relationship, one that is special and beautiful.  The poem gives us the hope that we will see them again and that they are not gone forever.

Tips To Grieve Your Dog’s Loss & Cope with What’s Next

Everyone grieves differently, so try to find the coping methods that work best for you.  Here are a few ways

    • Recognizing the pain – You can say to yourself, “I feel the pain of grief. I can sit with this. My dog meant too much to me not to feel this way. It’s okay to feel sad.”
    • Reach out to loved ones – call friends, family, and other pet owners to talk to about your feelings.
    • Attend pet-grief support groups – Ask your vet or look online for support groups.
    • Memorial service – Host a get-together with friends to honor your dog.
    • Use a grief journal – For as long as you need it, write down special memories or intense feelings to get it out.
    • Listen or watch – Consume media that is contemplative or, when you’re ready, upbeat.
    • Get busy – Physical activity can help clear your mind.

For an in-depth look at these tips and for more resources check out our blog on coping with the loss of your dog.

Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day – August 28th

This is a date to put on your calendar.  Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day was started in 2015 and it is a day set aside to remember your dog, and their impact on your life and to pay tribute to them. You can do this on your own each year or you can join others who have lost their dogs and post on social media using the hashtag – #rainbowbridgeremembranceday. This is another way that you will feel that this is not a journey you have gone on alone but a journey that many have had to go on.  On this day, share the old photos and memories with family, and friends and on social media.

Woman and dog sitting with their backs to the camera in front of lake

NCCF Rainbow Bridge Poem for Dogs

Remember as you go through loss, you are never alone, there are always people to reach out to who will listen.  I will leave you with the original poet’s words as she wrote them back in 1957.

By Edna Clyne-Rekhy

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, your 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, water, and sunshine, and friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and strength, those who were hurt are made better and strong again, like we remember them before they go to heaven. They are happy and content except for one small thing—they each 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. His bright eyes are shining, his body shakes. Suddenly he begins to run from the herd, rushing over the grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cuddle in a happy hug never to be apart again. You and your pet are in tears. Your hands again cuddle his head and you look again into his trusting eyes, so long gone from life, but never absent from your heart, and then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together.