Patsy Ann – The Story Of The Dog Statue At Juneau’s Docks

When I was a junior at Juneau-Douglas High School, I worked downtown three days a week. Not directly after school, mind you, there was about a two-hour gap between the final bell and when I could clock in for work.

Every work night, I did the same thing after school. I walked over to the downtown McDonald’s (which is now a Heritage Coffee Shop) to get two Ranch Chicken Snack Wraps (Crispy) and a medium Diet Coke. I wish they’d bring those back, they were so good.

After I ate, I went over to Marine Park and walked down the cruise ship docks, a little bit past the Mount Roberts Tram and back. After a few loops, it would be time for work.

Every day I did this, I must have walked past the statue of the English bull terrier that sits near the public library a dozen times. I never thought much about it, probably because I was busy thinking about homework or girls, which is how I spent most of high school.

A couple of months ago, I was downtown on the docks with some friends and a pair of kids playing Pokemon Go asked me why there was a statue of a dog there. I had no clue because I had never thought to read the plaque.

Thankfully one of my friends stepped up and explained the history of Patsy Ann to the tourist children and saved me from the embarrassment of having to publicly admit I didn’t know something.

So if you’re visiting Juneau and want to avoid a similar situation, here’s the story of Juneau legend Patsy Ann.

Who was Patsy Ann?

In 1929 in Portland, Oregon, a female English bull terrier gave birth to a litter of pups, one of whom was later named Patsy Ann. As a puppy, she was brought to Juneau by a local dentist, where she spent almost the entirety of her 12-year life.

She was unable to hear, completely deaf from birth. Despite this, she always knew when a boat was about to arrive in town. She was Juneau’s version of Radar O’Reilly from M*A*S*H, except with boats instead of choppers.

Even in her old age, struggling with weight gain and rheumatoid arthritis from jumping into the water beneath the docks, she’d run to the docks and, sure enough, a boat would soon become visible on the horizon.

According to a famous local story, a ship was due to arrive in town and, because of a mix-up, the wrong dock was announced. Patsy Ann came over, looked at the crowd of expectant people for about a minute, then took off running to the correct dock.

Who Was Patsy Ann’s Owner?

Patsy Ann was nominally owned by a dentist named Dr. Kaser and later by the family of a State Legislator named Reverend C.E. Rice, but she truly belonged to the people of Juneau as a whole. She wasn’t fit to be an indoor dog and roamed free most nights.

She spent most of those nights in the Juneau Longshoremen Hall (now known as the Centennial Hall Events Center), where she was well-fed and well-taken care of by the fishermen.

She was fed very well by ship cooks, bar patrons, and many others who considered her a friend. One resident was so fond of her that he bought her favorite candy bar every day to give to her.

Legacy as The Official Greeter of Juneau Alaska

Stories about Patsy Ann were common in the local newspaper, the Juneau Empire. Many shops downtown sold pictures and postcards of her, to the extent that it was claimed she was the most-photographed dog west of the Mississippi, even more than Rin Tin Tin.

In 1933, Juneau Mayor Isadore Goldstein declared Patsy Ann to be the “Official Greeter of Juneau, Alaska” and gave her “diplomatic immunity” from leashes, licenses, and collars.

On March 30, 1942, among her friends at the Juneau Longshoreman Hall, Patsy Ann passed away peacefully. The next day, with a crowd of her friends nearby, the tiny coffin that held her remains was lowered into the Gastineau Channel at her favorite spot.

The Statue

50 years after Patsy Anne’s passing, a woman named June Dawson, who was the head of a group called “Friends of Patsy Ann“, announced that a statue would be built to honor the town’s beloved dog and placed at her favorite spot on the docks.

A sculptor in New Mexico named Anna Burke Harris heard of the proposed statue and submitted some drawings and a mock-up of the statue to Dawson, who accepted and commissioned the statue to be built.

During the bronzing process, she included the clipped hair of various dogs from around the world, to symbolize the power of friendship and the unity of canines everywhere.

Some 30 years later, the statue remains downtown at Patsy Ann’s favorite spot by what is now the downtown branch of the Juneau Public Library, allowing her to greet visitors to Juneau over 80 years since she moved on.

Summary and Conclusion

This is the story of Juneau’s Official Greeter, the English bull terrier known as Patsy Ann, as it was related to me that day.

To be clear, this is the story that my friend told me on the drive home while were heading to the McDonald’s out in the valley.

When the kids asked, he just said, “There was a dog who used to greet boats back in the ’30s. She was a good girl, so they made a statue of her” and the kids said “cool, thanks” and walked off. He didn’t tell the kids the full five-minute story; that would have been silly.

Today, visitors are encouraged to touch the statue and to leave in the spirit of friendship, as Patsy Ann showed to her human friends and they showed to her.

You won’t want to miss this beautiful statue that commemorates Juneau’s beloved Official Greeter on your next exciting adventure to Alaska!

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