What is the meaning of the “Rainbow Bridge” poem to pet owners?
I am an energy therapist working within a modality known as Jin Shin Jyutsu, a light touch therapy similar to acupuncture, who treats both human and animal clients. For 10 years, I worked in a university medical and NCI cancer center here in Lexington, KY (UK HealthCare/Markey Cancer Center). I have worked extensively with hospice patients both human and animal and counseled pet owners through the process.
My pet clients call on me to assist them through the difficult decisions they face when their pet is critically ill with both Jin Shin Jyutsu and my understanding of the life journey. Because our pets live with us and not in the wild, decisions fall to the owners often to end the life of their pet for humane reasons. In the wild, animals fall to starvation or may become the meal of another animal. There is no humane choice for an animal suffering in the wild. The choice is always difficult and comes with many questions about appropriate timing and what comes next for their pet. There is often a sense of guilt in ending the life of their constant companion. The Rainbow Bridge poem offers solace and hope that their animal friend will be happy and well, free from suffering and waiting for them to continue their journey together.
I had my own experience with the Rainbow Bridge when I faced the decision to put down my yellow lab, Mattie. She had been experiencing extensive pain and it was beyond medical treatment. It was clear that she was ready to go. Even I in my expertise in the area of end of life care struggled with the decision of when was the right timing. I leaned heavily on the thought that she would be free and we would one day be reunited.
Our wonderful vet agreed to come to my home to help Mattie. All day that day I spent time with her, sharing Jin Shin Jyutsu to help her relax and connect deeply with her one more time. Our cat, Bubba never left her side all day, including once the vet arrived. While Margaret applied the medicine, Bubba and I stayed with Mattie. I told her I loved her and we would always be together. Mattie looked at me, sighed a last breath and was gone. Peaceful, beautiful, but I was still very sad.
Pet owners always question their motives and the timing of euthanasia. It is a big responsibility not to be taken lightly. I was no different. After Margaret left with Mattie’s body, I went upstairs to shower and wash away my tears. As the water flowed over me I questioned if Mattie would truly be “OK” and if my decision was sound. Suddenly a vision came as clear as day. It was Mattie! She was running through a green field not unlike the one behind our home where I’d run her when she had the strength and energy. She was happy and playing just as we had together. Just that quickly the vision was gone, but I knew in my heart that the vision was a gift from her and the Rainbow Bridge was real. Mattie would be fine. She was free from the body that was giving her pain and would be waiting for me one day. Knowing this in my heart, I was able to remember the beauty of our friendship together and feel that one day we could know this again. This is what the Rainbow Bridge poem gives to every pet owner. It gives them hope.16 January 2021