When our dog Toby died last summer, we were devastated. As I noted in this blog at the time, he was the best dog that had ever lived. He was a great friend to me, and he brought us so much joy during our time together.
As sad as we were, we didn’t really expect to receive condolence cards. But we did: one from Toby’s vet and two, a month apart, from Cornell University Veterinary Services, which has a comprehensive 24-hour facility here in Stamford, and which performed the final services. All three cards had this…well, I’m not sure what it is. A fable, maybe?
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….
The second card from Cornell was accompanied, for no apparent reason, by a heavy “Rainbow Bridge Token,” which seemed odd, because the Rainbow Bridge didn’t sound like it would have a toll. We have no idea what we’re supposed to do with it. Maybe it entitles a member of our family to a free ride at Cornell. Or on the subway.
Anyway, this…fable…poem…whatever it is…(which I edited a bit for space), is sure to make you tear up when you’ve just lost a pet.
I had never heard of Rainbow Bridge before, but I’ve seen many references to it since. When we began thinking about getting a new dog, we joined some breed-specific Facebook pages on which people posted photos of puppies, tips for owning that breed and heart-breaking eulogies for their recently departed pals, to which other members would add sentiments like “Crossing over the rainbow bridge…” Some days, it seemed like there would be less traffic on the George Washington Bridge. But I guess that makes sense; that bridge goes to New Jersey.
I guess you tend to overlook things when you’re overcome with emotion, like when you love someone so much you choose to ignore the drool that streams from their mouth as soon as they fall asleep…with their head on your shoulder.
But getting back to pets, did you notice how cleverly generic Rainbow Bridge is? That’s so, whatever kind of pet you lost, you think that’s what it’s talking about. But I have some questions…
- Doesn’t John’s pet canary thinks it’s somewhat less than heavenly when Jean’s pet cat comes along?
- How long do you have to wait for your pet turtle to “run from the group” for your reunion?
- Do you really want your dearly departed Slither to rain “happy kisses” upon your face, no matter how much you miss each other?
- Are fish included? How exactly do their legs carry them faster and faster over the green grass, and is that how evolution got started? And, really, isn’t it kinda yucky to “cling together?”
But okay, I get it. It’s the thought that counts, and all that. So how about this thought:
YOU’RE FRIGGIN’ DEAD!
Yes, your pet is ecstatic, but you’re extinct. Your vet, or whoever sent you this Rainbow Bridge thing, is essentially saying, “I hope you die soon so you can be with Fido again.”
And notice: you’re reunited with your beloved pet, but any friends or relatives who may have predeceased you? Not so much. How come grandma’s eager body isn’t quivering? Why aren’t you caressing the head of your favorite uncle Moe with the comb-over? Why isn’t Jim Morrison, who you didn’t know personally, but really loved, flying across the grass singing “Light My Fire”?
Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for anything that brings a person comfort in his or her time of grief, whether that’s religion, a pint of Baskin Robbins Rocky Road, or multi-colored infrastructure. I’m also not an unsentimental guy; we still have Toby’s first toy, a battered and faceless 13-year-old plush squirrel. Not to mention a Rainbow Bridge token.
It’s just that the whole Rainbow Bridge thing seems a bit too manufactured…a little too Hallmarky and Thomas Kincaide-y for my tastes.
But, sure, I’d love to be reunited with Toby when I die, especially if it means I’ll be “just this side of heaven.”
Although I figure this particular post is probably a strike against me.
See you soon.