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Patsy Ann: Official Greeter of Juneau, Alaska


Patsy Ann was Juneau's canine gal about town in the 1930s. If she wasn't observing the situation in the lobby of a fine hotel or the dark corner of a saloon, she'd likely be lounging at the Longshoreman's Hall. She came to Juneau by ship from Portland, Oregon, in 1929 as a pup, destined to be a family pet. But Patsy would have none of that and found she preferred life on the docks.

Patsy Ann was the town's herald. Although deaf from birth Patsy Ann somehow 'heard' the whistles of approaching ships and immediately headed at a fast trot for the wharf, not to be sidetracked for any reason. 'The ship is coming! Mail! Tourists! Packages!' The citizens of Juneau followed behind her when they saw her heading for the harbor.

Kind-hearted travelers threw treats to her out porthole windows and expected to see her on the docks. Her picture appeared on postcards as she became the most famous dog west of the Mississippi ... more photographed than Rin Tin Tin.

When the town instituted dog licensing laws someone bought her a collar and a license, which Patsy Ann promptly managed to remove and lose. Someone else repeated the kind gesture. And so did Patsy Ann ... again and again. A 'lady' of such dignity and breeding should not be burdened with a collar.

In 1934 Mayor Goldstein proclaimed Patsy Ann to be 'Official Greeter of Juneau,' for her unerring sense of ships' arrival and her faithful welcome at wharfside. He also allowed her special 'diplomatic immunity' from collars and licenses.

Patsy Ann fulfilled her duties with diligence and devotion throughout her life. In later years, rheumatism -- brought on by unscheduled dives into Gastineau Channel -- slowed her down somewhat but she still headed for the docks on the double whenever she sensed a ship turning down the channel.

On March 30, 1942, Patsy Ann passed away in her sleep, fittingly, at the Longshoreman's Hall. The next day a crowd of mourners watched as her little coffin was lowered into Gastineau Channel, just a short distance from where her statue is now.

In 1992, the Friends of Patsy Ann Society commissioned a bronze statue by New Mexican artist, Anna Burke Harris. It is a spirit piece: clippings of dog hair from all over the world were added to the bronze at the time of casting. Patsy Ann once again waits at the waterfront, her head turned, looking down Gastineau Channel, forever the "Official Greeter of Juneau."

The statue, erected in Patsy Ann's honor in 1992 on the 50th anniversary of her death, ensures Patsy Annís endearing story will not soon be forgotten. Since then her story has been spreading, generally by word of mouth from cruise ship passengers who stop in Juneau and are greeted by Patsy Ann as they would have been in the '30s.

Beverley W
Vancouver, Canada

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