By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: Careful. It's a bridge to dot, dot, dot.


Last updated 2/4/2022 at 12:02pm

The groundhog known as Milltown Mel died just days before this year’s Groundhog Day.

The first sentence of the death notice on his official Facebook page reads: “We Wranglers are sad to report that Milltown Mel recently crossed over the rainbow bridge.”

I did not know the Milltown, New Jersey, weather prognosticator personally or professionally, but I should probably be sad and just let things go out of respect for the dead, even if he is a rodent.

I just can’t let the opportunity pass by to discuss the whole Rainbow Bridge conundrum.

Did you know that the concept of our deceased pets passing over a rainbow bridge at some point after their death only became a thing in the 1980s?

Family pets in that era were increasingly being considered part of the family, so people were becoming more concerned about what happens to their pets when they die.

I was there. I remember discussions between smart people about whether or not animals go to heaven. Fundamental Christians were firmly on the side of “no” because entrance through the Pearly Gates was limited to souls saved through faith in Christianity.

Then one day, thanks to the combined powers of Xerox and this new thing called email, a prose piece about how our deceased pets will wait for us at Rainbow Bridge so we can all “cross over” together started circulating the world.

No one knows who wrote that original prose, but the great and powerful internet has narrowed it down to three or four people. The thing is, though, nobody cares who wrote it, or even that Steve and Diane Bodofsky, a couple who operated a ferret rescue, wrote the poem based on this original prose piece — and then subsequently started a whole Rainbow Bridge merchandising business, but that’s a story for another day.

People everywhere only cared that they finally knew what to tell grieving pet owners. “There, there, honey. Fido is at peace and waiting for you at Rainbow Bridge.”

And then after our death our human souls are going to be the ticket to getting the pets into heaven, right? Like the old Hollywood trope of the hot chick being the ticket to getting her homely friends into the exclusive night club, or somebody knows somebody in the kitchen who, for a C-note, will let you all in through the backdoor in the kitchen.

Here’s another issue with this Rainbow Bridge: What about the traditions of the white light and the Pearly Gates?

What if Fido is waiting there at the base of Rainbow Bridge and he runs into the cat that belonged to his human’s child and they’re like, “Hey, Mittens, sorry about your ninth death, but welcome to the lush, green meadow.”

“Sweet digs. Wassup which you, Fido, sittin’ here?”

“Oh, just waiting for my favorite human so we can cross this here bridge together.”

“Aww dang, dawg. I overheard my humans talking about how your human went through the Pearly Gates to be with the Lord. Sorry. Hey, don’t whine, dawg. I heard there’s a light you can chase or sompthin’ to get there. Ask around, dude.”

Imagine the disappointment. That’s like taking your dog for a walk and leaving him tied to the door at the animal shelter.

It also brings up my third problem with this Rainbow Bridge business — where the bridge leads to ... .

Neither the original prose or the poem says it’s taking anyone to heaven. I did not realize this until I started researching for this article.

The first line of prose says, “Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge,” but that’s the only mention of heaven, and it ends with, “Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together … .”

It doesn’t say that the bridge is going to heaven. And the poem doesn’t mention heaven at all. It just ends: “And then, side-by-side, they cross over … together.”

Dot, dot, dot again? What’s that all about?

What if it means humans are going to the animal afterlife? It could mean that the animals get to chose our afterlife experience according to how we treated them. Think about it.

What if the animal equivalent of heaven and hell are in the same place? The animal-heaven people get to do all the fun stuff like go for drives to the treat dispensary, take long walks, laze around in the sun and roll in catnip — while the animal-hell people are pooper-scooping, repairing all the broken and torn up stuff, and cleaning the muddy floors, the hairy furniture and the nose-print windows.

Dot, dot, dot.

Some folks will be in for a rude reckoning on the far side of that bridge.


All of a sudden, the Rainbow Bridge just got a lot more interesting at .


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