It was just like any other day at Rainbow Bridge. The animals were lined up to cross over into eternity, and St. Pedro was checking them all in with his giant Book of Life. St. Pedro was a majestic African lion who had served as bridge gatekeeper for many centuries. His job was to confirm names and ask a few questions before the animals were escorted across the bridge, which looked like an enormous rainbow suspended in the clouds.
Crossing over Rainbow Bridge is a spectacular event. Sounds of heavenly trumpets fill the air, flowers of every color dance in the breeze, and smells of jasmine permeate the sky. Once you reach the other side of the bridge, never-ending pastures of pastel colors lay before you, and birds unlike any you’ve ever seen fill the sky with their multicolored feathers and songs of glee. Cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, monkeys, goats, and every animal that has ever lived and died on Earth are joyfully running and playing games with each other. It is quite a sight to see!
Most of the animals run free in the pastures beyond Rainbow Bridge, but sometimes groups of animals flock together. Usually these are the animals who all shared the same caretaker on Earth. The animals who lived at Jenna and Friends Animal Sanctuary were no exception. Jenna the dog (for whom the sanctuary is named), Lester the Rooster, Rachelle the Kitty, and a handful of guinea pigs usually spent their days and nights together frolicking over the hills and sharing stories of their time on Earth.
Jenna was the designated communicator of the group, and she often provided updates about the animals still living at the sanctuary on Earth. Today, Jenna received news that they were expecting a new arrival. “Wash up, everybody! Shine your fur and polish your noses! Prepare the feast, and get out the trumpets! HERE COMES STELLA!!”
While the gang hurriedly prepared for the big celebration, Jenna ran across the pastures, past the willow trees and jasmine vines, down to the bridge to assist St. Pedro for the grand arrival. “Stella is coming!"
St. Pedro saw Jenna approaching, sounded his grand trumpet made of solid gold, and roared, “Hurry! It’s time! Stella has just arrived!”
Jenna hurriedly stepped all four paws into her robe of royal silk, and stood next to St. Pedro. Stella reluctantly made her way to the base of the bridge with a confused look on her face. Where was she? The last thing she remembered was her caretaker kissing her and telling her goodbye with tears rolling down her face.
Stella looked up in wonder at St. Pedro with his giant book and splendid trumpet. The light from the gold was almost blinding, but Stella stared anyway, as she was completely mesmerized by the glorious site. Just then, Jenna stepped from behind St. Pedro with a look of giddiness on her furry face. Stella recognized her immediately and her eyes opened wide with excitement. “Jenna? Is that really you? Could it be true?”
“Yes. Stella. My beautiful Stella, it is indeed me, Jenna, and you are at Rainbow Bridge. You were called early, as we weren’t expecting you for many years! Welcome home, sweet pig. You are free from sickness now and forever after.”
Just then, St. Pedro stepped a few paces toward Stella, did a quick grunt to direct everyone’s attention back to him, and said, “OK, Stella, let me quickly summarize your life on Earth for our records."
St Pedro opened his book with embroidered gold, and flipped through the pages until he found the “S” section. “Hmm, let’s see. Stella. Yes, here you are. Your chapter is short, but the information I have here is quite telling. Your general description says you were a very loving, gentle pig. You preferred to be alone most of the time. Your caretaker as well as many visitors to the sanctuary loved you beyond words. And you had only recently taken a little scared pig named Ellie under your wing and showed her love. Is all this true, Stella?”
Stella looked up with tears, slowly nodded her head in agreement, and muttered, “And I loved them back. All of them.”
St. Pedro responded, “Stella, many animals come here without ever having known love. You are one of the lucky ones. Jenna, are you ready to escort Stella to her welcome party?”
Jenna ran so fast toward Stella that her front two paws came out of the robe. She clumsily put them back in, and motioned for Stella to follow her. She was so excited, she could barely contain herself.
At first Stella hesitated. She had never walked over anything that didn’t seem to be attached to something. Jenna cocked her head and her ears flopped over to one side. “Come on, Stella. You can do it. I’ve got you!”
And with that, Stella’s grin widened as far as it would go, and her teeth shone bright in the light of the rainbow. With eyes of wonder and feet of spunk, she grabbed hold of Jenna’s paw and ran across the bridge and into a field of lavender.
Together, Jenna and Stella ran and ran, skipping from cloud to cloud, over pastures and fields of daisies and flowers of all colors. Birds guided the way for both of them. And when they reached the welcome party, sounds of a heavenly orchestra filled the air, and tables of fruit stretched as far as you could see.
Stella earned her wings that night. And some say that her wings were so bright and full of love and joy that you could see them sparkling like a star over the sanctuary for several nights.
As the years passed, Lester the Rooster’s feathered body started slowing down, and he found himself lounging more often. One of his legs suffered nerve damage, so he couldn't walk upright or stand properly anymore. He still served as activity coordinator for the pigs, but he usually sat on his favorite rock and just watched the festivities from a distance. You could see the pigs gathered around that rock listening to Lester’s stories and advice almost every day.
As Lester's condition slowly worsened, the pigs made up for his disability by carrying him from place to place on their backs and nudging the water and food bowls under his beak. The pigs even took turns carrying Lester into the barn in the evenings so he could roost in his favorite spot in the straw.
One day, Lester decided that he needed to say some things to the pigs while he still had the strength. He stumbled up on his rock and called a meeting with a loud crow.
Once the pigs were gathered around the rock and paying attention, Lester flapped his glorious wings and made a serious expression. “Pigs, my time is near, but I still need to teach you some important lessons. Everyone listen up!”
Pedro moved the water bowl closer to Lester in case he needed a water break during his speech. He could tell this speech was going to be a long one.
Lester dipped his beak into the water bowl, threw back his head to swallow, and continued.
“Pigs, listen to me. I’ve seen a lot in my life, and I want to give you advice to carry with you when I’m no longer here.” Stella looked down at the dirt, and a tear dropped from her face.
“First, life is an adventure! Never forget this. You all have your rescue stories. Never look back, and enjoy every moment you have left on your journey through life.”
Lester gave a pause, and the pigs all looked around with a slight smile, because they knew they were lucky. Luckier than most pigs. Almost in unison, the pigs slowing inched a little closer to Lester.
“Second point!,” Lester pointed his wing forward, and almost lost his balance. “Don’t ever underestimate how wonderful you are. You may have been told that you were worthless or filthy in the past, but those days are over. If you start dwelling on those bad days, brush off those old memories and be grateful.” Lester looked directly at Lucy because she wallowed in her past way too often.
“Third point! Stop and smell the roses. Look at the beauty all around you." Lester turned toward the trees and followed a bird soaring high above with his eyes. "You are living in paradise. You’re safe, warm, and well fed. You are blessed and loved.”
“Fourth! Don’t miss a single minute! Appreciate and be mindful of every moment you have left. Wake up every day and count your blessings.” Daisy looked down at the ground because she was in a bad mood and complaining about silly things just before the meeting.
“Fifth! Love your buddies! We are all friends here. We support each other. We love each other. We are truly a family here. Don’t ever take your buddies for granted.” Stella looked over at Mandy and gave a couple of soft snorts, because they were best friends.
“And finally, be like a flower and reach for the sun! Share your beauty with others. Never pass an opportunity to help a friend in need. Be a good listener, and let your beautiful light shine bright and tall!"
And with that, Lester took a deep breath, flapped his wings, and hobbled off his rock. The pigs stayed in their places, contemplating Lester's words, looking around at each other with tearful eyes, and praying to God that Lester could stay with them forever.
As the heavy winter rains swelled the creek that meandered through the sanctuary, the running water brought in sticks from nearby farms. The pigs spent hours collecting them and building little hiding places where they could play games and tell stories.
One morning after a particularly heavy rain, Stella got up at the crack of dawn and sprinted out to the creek. “Wow! Look at all the new sticks! We can each build our own little house out of them!
The other pigs heard Stella’s excitement and ran out of the barn, oinking and yawning all the way. Poor Lester the rooster almost got trampled as he was perched on a rock bellowing out his morning crows.
Stella simply could not control her excitement, and almost out of breath she yelled, “Let’s all chip in and create a huge pile of sticks. We can share them!”
As the events coordinator of the sanctuary, Lester crowed with joy, because he loved new projects. And he especially loved projects that helped the pigs learn how to share and be kind toward one another.
In his excitement, Lester flew over the commotion and ungracefully landed on a big rock in the creek so he could address the herd. “What a great idea, Stella! Our share pile will be here,” as he pointed his wing toward an open area under the big oak tree. “Today, we’ll create a big pile of sticks, and tomorrow, we’ll each go off and build our houses. Then we’ll have a contest to see who builds the best house. Stella, you and I will be the judges!”
And with a loud screech, Lester flapped his wings, and the contest was officially started. “Good luck, pigs!”
The pigs spent that first day gathering sticks and adding them to the share pile under the oak tree. Lester assisted by organizing the sticks and flying the smaller ones to the top of the pile.
Bright and early the next morning, the pigs picked out their spots, and started collecting their bundles of sticks from the share pile to build their houses. Stella built her house next to the creek, because she loved wading her hooves in the water. Lucy built her house way off in the corner of the woods so she could nap in private. And Gertie built her house right in the middle of the play area because she wanted to have guests and host parties.
As the sun set, Lester hopped on his perch and officially ended the contest. “Time is up, pigs!! Congratulations on all your hard work! We will judge your houses in the morning. Let’s all eat a nice dinner and get plenty of rest!”
The next morning, Lester hopped down from his perch, yawned, and looked into woods to focus his sleepy eyes. As the rising sun was just starting to lighten the trees, he suddenly saw movement by the creek. Fearing a predator, he screeched a warning crow to wake the pigs, and everyone ran out to investigate.
Lester and the pigs soon discovered the reason for the movement. It was Pedro, secretly working on his house. Obviously, he had been working all night, because his house was taller and wider than any of the other houses. It even had a front porch and windows!
Lester demanded an explanation. “Pedro, what are you doing? We finished building our houses last night so we could judge them this morning. You didn't follow the rules! This isn’t fair to the other pigs!”
Pedro whined back, “Well, I’m sorry, Lester, but the creek brought in more sticks last night, and I had to grab them before the other pigs saw them.”
Lester became very sad because he knew Pedro had not fully recovered from his life of fending for himself and stealing food and shelter. This was the only life Pedro knew for many years before coming to the sanctuary. Lester was angry, but he also felt compassion and knew that he could use this opportunity to teach an important lesson.
Just about the time the pigs had gathered around to see what was going on, a strong wind whipped through the sanctuary and blew the side off Pedro’s tall house. Pedro grabbed as many flying sticks as he could, but he finally gave up and started to cry.
Lester slowing turned and looked at the other pigs, who were just standing by the creek, mouths wide open. not knowing how to react. But Lester's look said it all.
Without oinking a word, the pigs started rebuilding Pedro’s house - one stick at a time. They even moved their own houses over to Pedro’s house to form one huge house big enough for all the pigs to share. It was a stick mansion!
With big smiles, Lester and Stella announced Pedro the winner of the contest and officially gave that fabulous structure of sticks the name "Pedro's House." And Pedro cried with joy, because he knew his days of stealing were over for good.
As the months passed, Lester the rooster took on the role of Activity Coordinator at the sanctuary. He planned games and events for the pigs. Sometimes they had oinking contests. Of course Bobby always won, because he had the loudest oink of everyone. Sometimes they had contests to see who could find the most interesting insect. Gertie usually won that contest because she was smaller than the other pigs and could fit in tight places where bugs liked to hide.
As the cold winter months dragged on, the pigs got a little impatient with each other and sometimes bickered among themselves. “Stop hoarding all the straw!” “It’s my turn to sleep under the heat lamp!” “Get your cold snout off my back!”
With all the bickering, Lester decided to plan a new contest that would help the pigs be nicer to each other. Perched on the edge of the stall, he gathered all the pigs around and made his announcement.
"Gather 'round, herd!! You have one day to do a good deed for one of your herd-mates. You will present your good deed to the herd, and the pig with the most creative good deed will get a personal back scratch from me!”
The pigs loved back scratches, so they took the new challenge very seriously. They immediately started planning their good deeds, and by the next morning, the pigs were busy putting them into action. The pigs were very competitive, so naturally they tried to outdo each other. And of course, they had to make sure that everyone witnessed their acts of kindness.
The following day, Lester banged his beak on the metal water bowl to get everyone’s attention. Ding, ding, ding! Once the pigs were gathered around, he hopped up on his perch. “Now is the time we’ve been waiting for. Each of you will share your good deed with their rest of the herd, and then we’ll vote on a winner!”
One by one, the pigs told their stories of good deeds. Bobby yelled, “I cleared the ramp off for Miss Gertie so she wouldn’t slip and fall!” Pedro pushed his way up to the front, “Well I nudged out a spot in the straw for Petunia so she could sleep directly under the heat lamp!” And Stella blurted out, “Well, I gave Mandy a cool new stick to play with!”
With each story, the pigs oinked loudly and clapped their hooves in celebration.
Then it was Lucy’s turn to tell her story. She slowly bowed her head in shame because she didn’t have a good deed to share. Lester looked down at her from his perch and demanded an explanation. “Lucy, why didn’t you do a good deed for one of your herd-mates? The other pigs have all shared their acts of kindness, and we are so proud of them. Why didn’t you do your good deed?”
Still looking down at the ground, Lucy replied softly, “I tried to think of something, but I just couldn’t find anything to compare with your good deeds.” She looked around shamefully at the other pigs. “Even after you fell asleep and I tucked you in and prayed over you, I still couldn't think of anything. I’m so sorry I disappointed all of you.”
Suddenly, each pig looked at Lucy in surprise. With ears perked up, Stella asked, “Lucy, you tuck us in and pray for us at night after we go to sleep?”
Lucy replied, “Yes, every single night. I pray that God keeps you safe and healthy. I pray that you forget about your past lives when you were mistreated. I pray for peace in the herd. I pray that you will love each other with all your hearts.” Lucy seemed a little embarrassed at her admission.
The pigs bowed their heads, because they knew that Lucy deserved the reward. She performed her good deed from the kindness of her heart - without seeking recognition or a reward of any kind. She did it out of love.
And with that, Lester gave Lucy the best back scratch she had ever had. And the pigs took turns rubbing her feet and nibbling on her sweet ears while they secretly planned more good deeds for their herd-mates.
Gertie was a scared and malnourished young pig when she arrived at the sanctuary. She was found wandering the streets of a nearby town and taken to the local animal shelter. The shelter tried to find her owner, but no one claimed her. We won her in a livestock auction.
When Gertie first came to the sanctuary, the other pigs immediately noticed how different she looked. “Who is that pink and skinny animal with the white tufts of hair? Is that a pig? Is she coming to live here with us?”
Gertie heard their talk and felt embarrassed. She knew she was different than the other pigs. She was much smaller in size, and her skin was light in color. You could see her bones from months of not eating properly. But she knew she was in the right place. She was tired of being scared and alone.
Gertie spent her days exploring the woods and taking in the wonders of nature. She loved to lie in sunny spots in the leaves and relax on her back with her soft pink belly sticking up in the air. The squirrels and birds were attracted to Gertie’s peaceful nature, and they often came to sit with her while she sunbathed.
Over the weeks, Gertie blossomed in weight and gained strength. Her tufts of hair slowly turned into a beautiful shiny white coat, and her sad eyes became bright with wonder. Soon, her differences became her greatest treasures. One of those treasures was her voice. She sang like an angel!
One day, Daisy asked, “Little Gertie, I've never seen a pig like you. You don’t look like us. You don’t sound like us. Are you really a pig?” Daisy was jealous of Gertie and didn’t like her to get so much attention.
Gertie responded, “Yes, Daisy, I really am a pig, and I know that I’m different. But we’re all different in some way, and that’s what makes us unique. Look at you with those spots. None of the other pigs have spots. But your spots are beautiful, and they make you special.”
Daisy always thought her spots were ugly, and she often rolled around in the mud to cover them up. Now, she looked at her spots and wondered. She also looked at the other pigs. She noticed Mandy's short stumpy legs, Stella's fat cheeks, and Lucy's tall ears that stood straight up when she got excited.
Gertie continued, “Daisy, keep looking around you. All our differences make us who we are. Can you imagine if all of us looked exactly the same? And if we all talked and walked the same? Can you imagine how boring life would be?”
Later that evening, the pigs gathered around Gertie as she sang them to sleep. Daisy thought about how Gertie’s voice sounded like a symphony of angels. She carefully picked the mud off her spots, gently covered them in warm straw, and drifted off to sleep.
Pedro and Petunia came to the sanctuary from a mean farm. Their pen was small and dirty. They didn’t have clean water, healthy meals, or fresh straw for sleeping at night. They didn’t even have shade in the hot summer. Can you imagine how miserable they must have been?
When our dear friend Bridget heard about Pedro and Petunia’s sad situation, she drove straight to the farm and begged the owner to let her take the pigs to a better home. “We just can’t let Pedro and Petunia live in filth. They need good food, clean water, and a space to roam and explore with friends. Please let me take them!”
After much convincing, the farmer finally agreed to let Pedro and Petunia go, and now they are here at our sanctuary. You can recognize Pedro by his cute white feet and Petunia by the little pink heart on her nose. Every night, these lovebirds snuggle together and sleep away the night. They are so adorable!
Here at the sanctuary, we believe that good comes from every bad situation, and Pedro and Petunia are living proof. Here’s a little story to illustrate our point.
It was Christmas Eve, and Pedro and Petunia were relaxing in the barn, as they usually do when the sun goes down. The radio was playing Joy to the World, and the pigs were all tapping their hooves singing along.
Suddenly, Pedro stood up on his short legs and asked Petunia, “What do we know about Joy? I suppose we’ll never know since we have so many awful memories of our past. Those days took away our Joy.”
Petunia smacked her lips and twitched the little heart on her nose while she thought about her answer. Then she replied, “Joy is all around us, Pedro. And it’s also within us. It’s about letting go of our past and forgiving the farmer who was so mean to us. It’s about feeling grateful for what we have. It’s about sharing with others. That’s what Joy means to me.”
The other pigs overheard Petunia and started to gather around her. Stella made her way through the pigs so she could stand directly in front of Petunia while she continued her speech.
Petunia paced a little while she spoke. “We all have stories from our past. But look at us now! We are living in paradise. We have everything we’ve ever wanted - food, love, warmth, friendship - we have it all! And we're living at our forever home, so we don’t ever have to worry about anything EVER again. We are so blessed. My friends, look around you and feel the love. THIS IS JOY."
The pigs and Lester the rooster all smiled, because they knew Petunia was right. And they also knew why she was born with that little pink heart on her nose.
Lester found his way to the sanctuary when he was just a young cockerel, more commonly known as a rooster. He was a handsome boy, but he was also very arrogant. He thought he was better than the pigs, and he often taunted them from his perch in the barn, which he referred to as his throne.
“You filthy pigs spend all day wallowing in the mud. Your snouts are big and ugly. Your tails curl up like snakes. All you do is walk around snorting and telling silly stories. You can’t even fly!”
He twirled his feathery head around to show off his bright red comb and muttered to himself, “So unappealing to a beautiful creature like myself.”
The pigs tolerated Lester and his arrogant behavior. Sometimes they made fun of him behind his back, and other times they just felt sorry for him. But their lives were too full of fun adventures to worry about a mean chicken.
One night, Lester was roosting on his usual perch overlooking the pigs, when he heard Miss Stella crying softly to herself. Suddenly, he was overwhelmed with a feeling of compassion. He knew the other pigs often picked on her. He also remembered the farm where he used to live and how the chickens picked on him and made him cry.
Lester flew down into Stella’s stall. Her snout was glistening in the moonlight from her tears, and the straw around her was wet, too.
“Stella, why do you let the pigs pick on you? Why don’t you stand up for yourself?”
Stella looked at Lester with a very confused look on her face. She had never heard him speak kindly before.
Stella replied, “Why do you care, Lester? You only care about yourself. You don’t care about me.”
Lester stood and reflected for a minute. He thought about what it really means to care about someone. He also thought about his own behavior. He wondered if anyone had ever cared about him in his whole life.
Lester moved his wrinkled little foot and placed it on Stella’s hoof. “I care about you, Stella. I don’t really know why, but I think I do care about you.”
Stella stopped crying and turned her focus to Lester. She wanted to know more about him. Where did he come from? Why did he act so arrogant and proud?
Lester spent the rest of the night lying next to Stella, keeping her company and telling stories about his past. He told her about the mean farm where he used to live and how he was treated. He told her about his deep sadness.
Stella listened to every word Lester spoke that night. In fact, she listened so much that she completely forgot about her own problems.
That night, Stella and Lester formed a bond that would never break. They made a pact to protect and love each other for the rest of their lives.
The next morning, before the other pigs woke up, Stella smiled at Lester, and thanked him for his kindness. “I learned something very important last night, Lester. Caring for others is the secret to being happy. If we care for others, then we have a mission in life, and our own problems won't be important anymore.”
Lester twirled his bright comb in the usual way, but this time, he twirled it out of happiness, because he had just learned the most important lesson in his life. He proudly flew up on Stella’s back and proclaimed his new throne.
Stella arrived at the sanctuary in the heat of summer when the other pigs were in the best of moods. The sun was shining, the leaves were rustling in the breeze, and the mud puddles were full of water. Love and freedom was in the air.
But the air around Stella was different. She had never been around other pigs, and she was scared. The eyes that gazed at her through the fence were monster eyes. The grunts of curiosity were angry growls. The sun only brightened her fears.
Stella was confused. "Where am I? Who are those monsters, and why do they keep staring at me? Go away! Leave me alone!" She cowered behind trees and hid in her stall when the sun went down.
In the evenings, Stella’s human caretaker Anna came to check on her and scratch her little ears. Anna assured Stella, “Everything will be OK, sweetheart. Those monsters are really just pigs like you. Their eyes are simply looking at you out of curiosity, and their grunts are just their way of saying hello. How can I make you see that?”
Anna continued comforting Stella in the evenings. “Miss Stella, I want you to feel safe here. I want you to be happy.” But she knew that deep down, Stella was lonely and didn’t trust the other pigs.
The weeks passed, and the summer turned into autumn. Stella started feeling a little more comfortable with her surroundings. She loved rooting around in the woods and wading in the stream of water that winded through the forest. The days were cooler, and the colorful leaves were dancing off the trees. She felt the warmth of the sun on her back, and she smiled.
One day, a little girl named Charlotte came to visit. “I brought pumpkins to share with the pigs!” At first, Stella became very excited and ran to get her treat. But then she suddenly stopped and cautiously moved behind a tree. She had no courage to face the other pigs.
Charlotte was a deeply sensitive child and recognized Stella’s struggle. She decided to give Stella her very own pumpkin. As Stella was eating, Charlotte asked, “Stella, why do you shy away from your herd? Why do you insist on being alone?”
Stella replied, “The pigs don’t like me, and they just don’t want me around. They pick on me. They bully me. They hate me.”
Charlotte was sad to hear these words. “No, Stella, they don’t hate you. They just need to get to know you. Then they’ll see how wonderful you are. But you need to take the first step. You need to put forth the effort.”
The days passed, and Stella thought carefully about Charlotte’s words of wisdom. And then it finally clicked. She thought, “I’ve been waiting all this time for the herd to accept me – for them to like me and invite me to their frolicking. But I need to accept them, too. I need to show them that they can trust me and that I can be their friend.”
And then Stella decided to do something that would change her life forever. She opened her heart, gained her strength, and made the first move. "I want to make friends with my herd. I want to be loved and love them back." And that’s exactly what she did – one pig at a time.