Long before an adorably ugly English bull terrier charmed America in The Incredible Journey, there was Patsy Ann, another bull terrier who was named Juneau's "Official Greeter" in 1934. Profoundly deaf from birth, Patsy Ann nonetheless had the uncanny ability to sense the arrival of ships at the city docks. What's more, some claimed that she knew to which of the seven docks a cruise ship was bound. In the spirit of the old "Believe It or Not!" series, supporters cited the time there was a crowd of people standing at the wrong dock because of a misprint in the newspaper. Patsy Ann headed for the correct dock and staked her spot, casting occasional glances in the direction of the crowd, who eventually starting walking to Patsy Ann's dock when they saw the ship's intention.
Born October 12, 1929, in Portland, Oregon, Patsy Ann was a purebred puppy who came north by ship, intended for the twin daughters of a Juneau dentist named Dr. Keyser. But the Keysers did not keep her permanently. Next she moved in with the Dean Rice family, and again, that home was not permanent. Through the years, she became a citizen of Juneau at large, a personality known and loved by all. She roamed the streets and alleyways, visiting favorite places such as bars and hotel lobbies, and galvanizing into a trot toward Gastineau Channel whenever a ship's whistle blew, as if she could hear it. At the docks, she waited for affectionate pats and food gifts, growing chubbier as the years went by. With the mayoral proclamation designating her Official Greeter, she also became exempt from dog-licensing laws. A favorite hangout for Patsy Ann was the Longshoremen's Hall.
Patsy Ann was one of the most photographed dogs in the West, and tourists carried her story all over the country. If they didn't take her picture, then they could buy her image on a postcard in local shops. In 1935, Patsy Ann was photographed on the dock when the U.S. Army Transport North Star stopped in Juneau en route to Seward. Aboard was the first contingent of families bound for the Matanuska Valley and a new farming colony. Four years later, in 1939, local author Carl Burrows wrote a booklet about Patsy Ann that further heightened her growing celebrity.
She died at the Longshoremen's Hall on March 30, 1942, and received a burial at sea the next day. A large crowd gathered to honor her life and mourn her passing. Friends lowered her small coffin into Gastineau Channel.
Fifty years later, the "Friends of Patsy Ann" commissioned a bronze statue of the terrier for installation not far from where mourners said good-bye in 1942. Sculptor Anna Burke Harris worked from a 1939 life drawing of Patsy Ann by Josephine Crumrine, along with photographs taken during the 1930s by Trevor Davis. On July 3, 1992, following a lavish reception aboard the Regal Princess, the statue of Patsy Ann was unveiled at Patsy Ann Square along the waterfront. Memorialized in bronze, she remains in an ever-alert pose, looking out over the channel for inbound ships.
The statue of the friendly little dog draws crowds of cruise ship passengers who come to pet Patsy Ann, take a few pictures, and leave with a feeling of good will that she continues to instill. More than five decades after her passing, Patsy Ann remains the "Official Greeter of Juneau."