Each summer thousands visit my hometown, streaming into town off huge cruise ships that arrive in our channel. These visitors overwhelm our “historic” downtown, crowding the shops and asking questions that we locals have a hard time answering with a straight face.
“Do you take American money here?”
Umm…yes. We are still part of your United States.
“How high above sea level are we?”
-Looking down at the water underneath the dock- Oh, I’d say…10 feet?
Can I see Russia from here?
No… no you cannot.
It seems there is a surprising lack of knowledge about this little cruise stop. (I swear there is more to Alaska than crazy politicians and whatever “reality” shows you might have seen!) So with the beginning of tourist season creeping up on us here in Juneau, Alaska, allow me over the course of the summer to be your Juneau tour guide, share with you some of my favorite local haunts, and of course, provide historical context and related fascinating literature – as if you can expect anything less from me.
When you arrive, you’ll step off the boat where you’ll be greeted by my favorite statue, a likeness of our city’s most beloved dog. This is Patsy Ann. She was a dog that would let herself be kept by nobody. Had you arrived in Juneau in the late 1930’s and early 1940s, you would have arrived by steamship. As you stepped onto the dock, a white, short-haired, dog with squinting pink-lined eyes would enthusiastically have greeted your arrival with a wagging tail. Her name was Patsy Ann. She was an English Pitt Terrier, and completely deaf. Despite her lack of hearing, Patsy Ann knew exactly when ships were due to arrive in town and would run down to the dock to greet the passengers. In 1934 Patsy Ann was dubbed by the mayor, “Official Greeter of Juneau, Alaska.”
Her story has inspired a children’s picture book with images so beautiful I couldn’t resist buying my own copy. Picture books don’t have to be just for children when the images of works of art!
While I enjoy visiting the statue and viewing the historical photographs of Patsy Ann, the illustrations by Jim Fowler in Patsy Ann of Alaska: The True Story of a Dog by Tricia Brown (Goodreads link) take my breath away. This book breathes color and life into the story of this dog in a way the other two mediums cannot. Here I have found a representation of my town in another time, similar in many ways, yet today we lack the singular personality of Patsy Ann that brought a town together.
While Patsy Ann no longer greets the boats herself, her likeness is now bronzed and greets the cruise ship passengers in her stead. So, Patsy Ann and I humbly, and officially, welcome you to our little corner of the world!