Alaska's Villains, Vamps and Vagabonds
Part III
Juneau's Patsy Ann

She is Juneau's most beloved vagabond, and her larger-than-life statue stands on the wharf of Gastineau Channel. Not only is she commemorated in bronze, but her picture adorns T-shirts, coffee mugs, postcards, and she is the heroine of a paper-back novel. In fact, she even has her own web-site.

What's more she is also a grand dame with a distinguished title. Back in 1934, Mayor Goldstein proclaimed Patsy Ann the "Official Greeter of Juneau", and granted her "diplomatic immunity" from collars and licenses.

Dog collars and licenses that is. For Patsy Ann was - and still is - Juneau's favorite canine. And she was quite a gal too.

Born in Oregon in 1929, she arrived in Juneau on board ship-a chubby bull-terrier puppy-destined for adoption as a family pet. Patsy Ann, however, had other ideas. A free spirit, she preferred to spend her time gadding about town, schmoozing with saloon customers, lounging at the Longshoreman's Hall or dropping by the lobbies of posh hotels. Best of all, she enjoyed hanging out at the docks.

Like most bull terriers, Patsy Ann was deaf from birth and couldn't hear the whistles or horns of boats approaching Juneau, but that didn't matter. Some inner radar-like instinct, would send her off at a business-like trot to the wharf, as a steamer made its way up Gastineau Channel. She was never mistaken. On one occasion when a crowd collected at the wrong dock, Patsy Ann stared at them, seemingly shook her head in disbelief, and promptly took off for the correct landing pier. As time went by, folks in Juneau learned to follow her lead, as mail boats, tourist ships and package steamers nosed into view along the Channel.

The town eventually instituted dog licensing laws, and one of Juneau's residents bought her a collar and license. Patsy Ann would have none of that nonsense. A "lady" of her distinction and breeding could hardly be expected to submit to the indignity of a collar, and she managed to divest herself of a series of them. The issue, of course, vanished when Mayor Goldstein conferred celebrity status on Juneau's Official Greeter.

Patsy Ann lived up to her title with diligence, never failing to arrive on the wharf well ahead of time and to extend an affectionate welcome to ships' visitors and crew. As she grew older, she developed rheumatism, possibly as a result of unscheduled dousings in the icy waters of Gastineau Channel. She also became a rather stout old lady, having lived off the bounty of restaurants, ships' kitchens, and treats handed out to her by hundreds of captivated tourists.

Patsy Ann died on May 30th 1942, while sleeping in her favorite spot at the Longshoreman's Hall. The next day, a crowd of mourners watched tearfully as her small coffin was lowered into the waters of Gastineau Channel.

Fifty years after her death, the 'Friends of Patsy Ann Society' commissioned Anna Burke Harris, a New Mexico artist, to craft a bronze statue of their faithful companion of bygone days. It is a spirit piece which incorporates many different clippings of dog hair (added at the time of casting) so as to symbolically unite the spirit of dogs from all over the world.

The sculpture also keeps alive the spirit of Patsy Ann, as she once again waits at the waterfront, head turned to look down Gastineau Channel-forever the Official Greeter of Juneau.

Patsy Ann


Note: To browse through photos of Patsy Ann, read the story of how her statue was crafted, and find out how to obtain "Dogstar" the novel which has endeared her to thousands of readers, visit Five percent of the proceeds of the sale of the book is donated to the Patsy Ann Fund under the auspices of the Gastineau Humane Society. The web site also offers visitors a memorial page (text and photos) dedicated to their own pets whose spirits have moved on to inhabit Sirius, the Dogstar. The service is free, but donations which help with the cost of site maintenance, are greatly appreciated.


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