VISTA — At South Buena Vista Park, pet owners and their four-legged buddies retreat to the outdoors to take their walks. On the path, they cross over a bridge — and it’s just not any bridge.
It’s the Rainbow Bridge Dog Memorial.
The bridge concept started with Vista residents Brian Cyr and his wife, Kim. Their beloved dog, Cowboy, passed away of cancer at the age of 13 more than a year ago. Cowboy was a border collie and a service dog for their daughter.
The death of Cowboy left a hole in their hearts.
Cowboy was known by many since he’d spend his playtime at South Buena Vista Park.
“My wife, Kim, took Cowboy to the park every day,” said Brian Cyr, with tears in his eyes.
Cyr pointed out how the old bridge had seen better days and needed to be replaced. Cyr thought, why not replace it with a Rainbow Bridge, named for the popular poem, for people to memorialize their pets?
After Cowboy’s death, Cyr attended a neighborhood party. One of the guests was Vista Councilwoman Amanda Rigby. Cyr said he approached Rigby about the Rainbow Bridge idea and she thought it was great. Rigby was Deputy Mayor at the time, and she helped facilitate those initial meetings at the city level.
Also memorialized on Rainbow Bridge is Rigby’s beloved dog, Angie.
Cyr met many individuals including the City Manager and other key people at the City of Vista.
Cyr walked away from those meetings with a list of tasks. Cyr thought he’d get an Eagle Scout at troop 747 to help champion the venture. And he found Brady Creasy, who was interested in doing it as his Eagle Scout Project.
Part of Creasy’s work was fundraising — materials needed to be purchased to rebuild the bridge.
“It was a big project,” Creasy said.
A civil engineer explained the waterways and California State laws. Creasy and his building team of 30 that he supervised could keep the original base to the bridge but had to add on additional support in the center.
Not only did Creasy have to raise funds, but he was involved in the drawings and permitting process. From the very start, it took Creasy a total of five months to complete the project and multiple trips to the city.
After months of planning, Creasy said, it took three days to build the bridge.
While Creasy’s building plans were underway, Cyr had to figure out who would oversee the administrative duties for those who wanted to order the memorial plaques for their pets to place on the bridge.
Cyr walked into Melrose Veterinary Hospital, where he brings his animals and spoke with Dr. Paul Richieri, DVM, and his practice manager, Lana Jackson.
“They were supportive and gave me a thumbs up,” Cyr said.
Richieri thought it was a great idea since so many of his clients are attached to their pets. After all, they are part of the family.
Richieri was also thrilled that the city of Vista allowed Cyr to do this project.
“I thought it was very impressive and awesome,” he said.
Jackson stepped in to help facilitate the plaque orders and send those requests to B&K Engraving in Vista, which makes them for $55.
The Rainbow Bridge was completed on Aug. 15. Since that time, a total of 15 dog memorial plaques have been installed on the rails of the bridge. There is room for 200.
The Cyrs are overwhelmed by how many individuals embraced and supported the idea of Rainbow Bridge.
“It was a lot of hard work, and I’m so thankful to everyone,” Cyr said.
Jackson said she went to the bridge a couple of weekends ago and spoke to several of the hikers, some of whom were dog-owner clients. She wanted to know what they thought of the Rainbow Bridge. The feedback was positive.
“One said what was so neat about South Buena Vista Dog Park is that it really is a feeling of community,” Jackson said. “The Rainbow Bridge is a great tribute to the pets that we love.”
For more information on the Rainbow Bridge and to find out how to support it, contact Melrose Veterinary Clinic at (760) 727-5151.
This story has been updated to clarify Vista Councilwoman Amanda Rigby’s role in the development of the project.