- Steff Boulton
Patsy-Ann: The Official Greeter of Juneau
Updated: Apr 7, 2022
In 1934, the mayor of Juneau, Alaska dubbed local bull-terrier Patsy-Ann the 'Official Greeter of Juneau’. Despite her pride of place in the community, Patsy-Ann's life did not begin in Juneau, she was born October 12th 1929 in Portland Oregon...
She was brought north to Juneau by ship as a puppy to live with the twin daughters of a local dentist called Dr. Keyser. We don’t know why, but she did not stay long at the Keyser’s, unfortunately. And her next home with a local reverend's family wasn't a long-term stay either. Eventually, Patsy-Ann found that her home was to be with the people of Juneau at large.
Patsy-Ann became a real feature of the town - seen wandering the aisles of the Coliseum Theatre during performances or hanging round local shops waiting for treats. Her paw prints even remain accidentally in the concrete of a sidewalk on South Seward Street. But most of the time if you were looking for Patsy-Ann you could find her down at the docks or in Longshoreman Hall waiting for the steamships to come in. Despite being deaf since birth, Patsy-Ann intuitively knew when the ships were coming in and would always be there ready and waiting to welcome the people onboard to Juneau!
(Left: Aerial shot of Juneau in the early-mid 1900s, Right: Photo of the Coliseum Theatre)
The steamship had revolutionised tourism in the early 20th century - The Alaska Steamship Company would charge a standard cabin rate of just $30 or for a cheaper $15 your ship was probably not just carrying passengers, probably some livestock and maybe something illegal too (!). In this period, tourism began booming in Alaska as holidaymakers travelled to see the viewpoint overlooking Taku Glacier whilst others hopped aboard hoping to head north on a gold prospecting mission. Whatever your reason to end up Juneau, you could be sure Patsy-Ann was there to greet you!
She quickly became a local legend. Throughout the 1930’s visitors wanted their photo taken with Patsy-Ann and bought postcards with her beautiful face on them to send home. For many, seeing the bull-terrier was a highlight of their trip - local writer Carl Burrows even wrote a booklet about her for tourists to take home and keep Patsy-Ann in their hearts!
Sadly, on 30th March 1942 at the age of 14, Patsy-Ann died of old age. A small crowd gathered around the docks as her little coffin was lowered into the Gastineau Channel.
Fifty years after her passing, the Friends of Patsy-Ann group - founded by June Dawson - launched a campaign to have a statue of Patsy-Ann erected at the docks of Juneau. New Mexican artist, Anna Burke-Harris, was chosen to make the statue in Patsy-Ann’s likeness. Cast in the final bronze statue are clippings of dog hair from all over the world uniting the spirit of all these dogs together in one piece.
“My ancestry is mixed, with a lot of Indian -Lakota and Cherokee. From these ancestors, who love and respect the earth and all its creatures, came the belief in “Spirit Pieces” — whereby adding a piece of your spirit into the finished work will attain a small bit of immortality.”
- Anna Burke-Harris
The statue was made in Alberquerque and Burke-Harris specifically asked for it to arrive by ship into Juneau just for Patsy-Ann. (sobbing!) And on July 3rd 1992 it was unveiled under ‘blue-skies’ and a ‘balmy breeze’ in the air. Such perfect conditions!
Hundreds of thousands of holiday-makers arrive by cruise ship to Juneau every year and they are still greeted by the lovely Patsy-Ann all these years later. Visitors are encouraged to "greet her and touch her and in leaving, carry with you the blessings of friendship through your life's journey."
Come rain or shine, Patsy-Ann will be waiting to greet you the docks of Juneau!