Back across the ‘Rainbow Bridge’

0615enewsJoepicmainBy Rebecca Stares

I’m nearly certain that everyone who’s lost a pet has heard of the Rainbow Bridge, the passageway between this life and the next, which animals use to cross over. It is both a beacon and a safe passageway for animals when they die, and it is comforting in times of grief to be reminded of it. My beloved Joe took the journey across the Rainbow Bridge long before I was ready for it. What I didn’t know until he passed, was that the Rainbow Bridge is not a one-way street — our beloved animals can cross over it, in spirit, to visit us.

It was almost instantaneously that Joe started visiting me from the other side, helping me to heal my heavy heart. Joe was a hound/boxer cross, white with brown spots, and I loved him from the moment I saw him. He was the perfect dog for me, and above all, my best buddy. He was easy to recognize, even in spirit form, and I knew immediately when he was with me. Joe maintained an unmistakable presence; vibrant, uncontained energy, an exuberant being. Death did not change any of it.

Searching the web I found hundreds of stories from people all over the world who assert with confidence that their pet has visited them from the other side: finding a favourite toy not quite where you left it; seeing his form from the corner of your eye; reaching down to pet him and realizing there’s no physical form to touch. It wasn’t limited to dogs and cats either, but applied to horses, pigs, goats, birds, rabbits, reptiles, etc. Given my experiences with Joe, I’m inclined to believe that animals come back to visit more often than not.

Joe’s visits were not uncommon, especially in the year following his death. I would feel his presence in the woods where we used to go walking and take comfort in knowing I was not alone. Many times I would awaken from sleep feeling the outline of his body next to mine. I’ve felt his energy bound through the room and watched the movement of my cat’s eyes as he was tracking it — another sign of validation.

All of this raises some interesting questions: What compels our pets to cross back over Rainbow Bridge to visit? Why do some seem to visit more often and others not at all? Are they ghosts, and if so, does that mean they are trapped as ghosts? The last would be unfortunate if it were true.

Animal spirits who visit their human and animal friends, are not ghosts. The difference being that while a ghost is trapped energy, a spirit has successfully crossed over and has the ability to return for brief engagements. They offer validation of a bond that transcends the physical plane. They return to check in on us for reasons of curiosity and to ensure our well being, even helping to heal our grief and helping us move on and adjust to their absence. They teach us that death does not close our hearts to love or developing new bonds.

Interestingly, despite Joe being exclusively my dog, I am not the only recipient of his visits. Many of my friends and family members have reported feeling Joe’s presence and having him visit in their dreams. Even visitors in my home have asked what happened to the big white dog who had been running through the yard. (Gives me goosebumps!) Busy helper always comes barrelling in bringing joy and laughter and untold comfort that leaves a distinct and impressionable mark on the day.

The next time you think your departed animal is/has visited, don’t dismiss it. It’s not your imagination, nor is it just wishful thinking. It’s a visit, and it’s a good thing.

—Rebecca Stares is a clinical social worker, intuitive counsellor and animal communicator. Visit for more info.