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Grieving pet parents to find solace at Fort Creek

$18,000 pet memorial is to be installed beside the Hub Trail during the summer

One year after the previously anonymous author of a poem beloved by millions was discovered living in Scotland, a bridge crossing Fort Creek is to be rededicated as the Sault's 'Rainbow Bridge.'

City council voted this week to post a copy of the Rainbow Bridge Poem on a plaque next to the bridge, together with a 10-foot-long rainbow arch mounted on a concrete platform.

The $18,000 miniature bridge on the Hub Trail will be covered with wire mesh on which pet owners will be encouraged to attach pet tags with a lock.

"With work coming from engineering, recreation and culture, and public works, these expenditures are able to be covered within existing budgets," says Salvatore Marchese from the city's planning staff.

The installation, suggested by Ward 3 Coun. Angela Caputo, is intended to provide closure and peace to all who mourn the loss of furry friends.

The Rainbow Bridge Poem, written in vers libre more than 60 years ago by Edna Clyne-Rekhy, has comforted pet parents around the world:

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. 

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.

There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor.

Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.

His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers.

Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.

The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.

Until last year, no one knew with certainty who wrote the poem, which was reprinted twice by Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby), the world's most-syndicated newspaper columnist with 100 million readers.

Clyne-Rekhy's verse has been handed out to generations of pet owners at animal hospitals, quoted on memorials at pet cemeteries and on social-media condolences.

She wrote it after she lost her first dog, a Labrador Retriever named Major, in 1959.

It was just something she put in handwriting for her own healing, but over time she showed it to some friends, who cried and begged for copies.

She typed a few duplicate copies for them but never included her name.

More than a dozen other authors filed copyright claims on the poem.

But Clyne-Rekhy moved to India and then to Spain, and was oblivious to the huge audience her poem had acquired until she was contacted last year by Paul Koudounaris, an author and art historian based in Tucson, Arizona who was determined to solve the mystery of the poem's authorship.

"How on earth did you find me?" she asked, producing her original handwritten copy from 1959.

She was now 82 years old and living in Inverness, Scotland.

A month later, National Geographic magazine confirmed the discovery.

Here in the Sault, city officials are hoping to complete the Rainbow Bridge project before fall.

"This will be a unique project and will allow Sault Ste. Marie to have a special installation for both locals and visitors that are using the Hub Trail, to stop and take notice of the adoration the community has for its pet population," Marchese said in a report prepared for this week's city council meeting.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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