Who Wrote the ‘Rainbow Bridge?’
My Mom recently shared in interesting article about who actually wrote the ‘Rainbow Bridge.’ I had no idea myself, who had written it for animal parents. The ‘Rainbow Bridge’ has touched so many lives and has brought comfort to so many animal parents who have lost a beloved furry family member. It turns out that he author is Edna Clyne-Rekhy, an 82-year-old Scottish artist and animal lover. Until recently, she had no idea that the poem she wrote over 60 years ago–to honor her dog, Major–had brought comfort to so many others.
Clyne-Rekhy’s authorship likely would have been lost to history were it not for the tenacious work of Paul Koudounaris, an art historian, author, and cate owner in Tucson, Arizona. Koudounaris has spent the last decade working on a book about pet cemeteries and fequently encountered references to the “Rainbow Bridge” in his research, and he was curious who actually wrote it.
The poem’s popularity, he discovered, was launched in February 1994, when a reader from Grand Rapids, Michigan, sent a copy of “Rainbow Bridge” that they received from their local humane society to the advice column Dear Abby, which was published and noted that if anyone reading can verify the authorship, to come forward.
However, nobody came forward, and after that, “Rainbow Bridge” seemed to be everywhere. Starting in 1995, Koudounaris found records of 15 separate claims filed under the title “Rainbow Bridge” with the U.S. Copyright Office. He compiled a list of around 25 names he found to have any connection with the poem, and he was left with one: Edna Clyne-Rekhy.
He has found Clyne-Rekhy’s name after seeing reference in an online chat group to an Edna “Clyde” from Scotland who allegedly wrote the poem when her dog died.
When Koudounaris finally reached out to Clyne-Rekhy in January, he found out that Clyne-Rekhy’s story began in 1959. She was 19 years old and grieving the loss of her Labrador Retriever, Major. “He died in my arms, actually,” she recalled in a call with National Geographic.
According to Clyne-Rekhy, she cried and cried after Major died. Clyne-Rekhy’s mother suggested she write down her feelings. This is when the “Rainbow Bridge” was born.
The text went like this:
According to Clyne-Rekhy, she said, “It just came through my head, it was like I was talking to my dog–I was talking to Major. I just felt all of this and had to write it down.”
Clyne-Rekhy still has the original hand-written draft of the poem. When she showed it to Koudounaris, he immediately knew it was real.
Koudounaris suspects that it must have been passed person to person until it lost its connection to its original author–and eventually took on a life of its own. Clyne-Rekhy spent years in India and later moved to an olive farm in Spain–a path that may help to explain why she was not aware of the poem’s growing popularity in the U.S., Britain, and beyond.
“‘Rainbow Bridge’ provides the missing piece for people who have had to live with this anxiety that their animal is not good enough to deserve an afterlife,” Koudournairs says. “It gives us a reason to hope.”
Clyne-Rekhy says she plans to be reunited with Major and her subsequent pets, whose ashes she has kept.
“We’re going to be scattered in the North Sea,” she says.
*Image Credit: Painting by Stella Violano.