Juneau's Official Greeter-Patsy Ann

by Nancy Warren Ferrell

During the 1930s and early 1940s, Juneau's official steamship greeter proved to be a white female English Pitt Terrier named Patsy Ann. Seeing any dog wharfside was not in itself unusual; however, this one was completely deaf. No matter where Patsy Ann was in town, she would, somehow, sense the BARANOF, say, or the PRINCESS NORAH, coming into port and be dockside as the steamer pulled in. Patsy Ann, instinctively, not only knew when ships entered Juneau waters, but she also knew at which dock they would tie up.

Once the steamer was secured, Patsy Ann ambled forward, sniffing to the galley portholes, where crew chiefs handed out tasty morsels. As her name spread, tourists made it a point to look for Patsy Ann. She was said to be the most photographed dog around, her portrait finding its way all over the world.

When steamers anchored out in the harbor, Patsy Ann often went to them-jumping in and swimming out to pay her respects to the visitors. She would then perch herself on the steamer's rudder and wait for a ride back to shore.

Patsy's owners, Dean and Mrs. C. E. Rice, reported the dog deaf from birth. Later into adulthood, Patsy Ann gave up easy rectory living and took to wandering around town, spending more time at the longshoreman's union hall on the waterfront. There came a time when Patsy Ann was carted off to the pound because she had no dog license. The city, however, bestowed "Official Greeter" on Patsy Ann, and thereafter forgave the need for a license. With the title, Patsy Ann became independent and aloof, accepting homage as due her.

Outside the tourist season, newspaper items kept track of Patsy Ann's activities--leaving her pawprints for posterity on a newly paved sidewalk on South Seward Street; wandering up and down the aisle at the Coliseum Theatre during a musical performance; stepping around town sporting an expensive signature leather collar paid for by the stevedores, and fashioned by local artist George Arkele.

Eventually, Patsy Ann's years caught up with her. She died, fittingly, in the longshoreman's hall the evening of March 30, 1942 at the age of fourteen. The next morning Patsy Ann was buried at sea, her coffin lowered into Gastineau Channel from the city dock. Today the statue of Patsy Ann sits on Juneau's dock where, in memory, she continues to greet ships coming to the capital city.

Copyright © 1997 Nancy Ferrell

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Last revised on 4/22/97 - jak