The Rainbow Bridge is the theme of a work of poetic prose written some time between 1980 and 1992, whose original creator is unknown.
When a pet dies, it goes to the meadow, having its body cured of any illnesses, frailties or injuries. The pet runs around and plays with other pets, missing only one thing – the love and companionship of its owner who is still on earth.
One day, upon the pet owner's death, the owner crosses the meadow on his/her journey toward Heaven. The pet spots its owner and runs to greet him. The pet and owner reunite, and cross the Rainbow Bridge together into Heaven, never again to be parted.
Having been circulated and attributed sufficiently widely around the world, the original authorship of the poem is now uncertain. About.com suggests that there are three known contenders at present:
However, the concept of a paradise where pets wait for their human owners also appeared much earlier, in the little-known sequel to "Beautiful Joe", the Margaret Marshall Saunders' book , "Beautiful Joe's Paradise." In this green land, the animals do not simply await their owners, but also help each other learn and grow and recover from mistreatment they may have endured in life. But the animals come to this land, and continue to true heaven, not by a bridge but by balloon.
The first mention of the "Rainbow Bridge" story on the internet is a post on the newsgroup rec.pets.dogs, dated January 7, 1993, quoting the poem from a 1992 (or earlier) issue of "Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League Newsletter", which in turn is stated to have quoted it from the Akita Rescue Society of America. Other posts from 1993 suggest it was already well established and being circulated on the Internet at that time, enough for a single line quote to be expected to be recognized by other newsgroup readers.
Natural and mythical Rainbow Bridges exist elsewhere, for example, the natural Rainbow Bridge National Monument in [Arizona], and the Rainbow Bridge legend told by the Chumash people of Santa Cruz Island.