Category Archives: Alaska

Patsy Ann, the “Official Greeter” of Juneau, Alaska

By Linda Cole

The mystery of how and why dogs do certain things has never been solved, and maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a conundrum that constantly reminds us of the amazing abilities of dogs. Such is the case with Patsy Ann, a white Bull Terrier who left her home and family behind to become the “Official Greeter” of Juneau, Alaska, welcoming ships as they docked. What impressed the townspeople was that even though Patsy Ann was born deaf, she was able to “hear” the whistles of ships preparing to dock before they were even in sight. She was the most famous dog west of the Mississippi during the 1930s.

Patsy Ann was born on October 12, 1929 in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Keyser, a Juneau dentist, purchased the pup for his twin daughters, and Patsy Ann traveled by ship to her new home in Alaska. Once there, however, things didn’t go well in her new home and she was given to another family in Juneau. But Patsy Ann had a mind of her own and wasn’t the “settling down with one family” type of dog. She regularly escaped to make her rounds around town and visit human friends. A friendly soul adored by everyone, Patsy Ann had become Juneau’s dog.

How Patsy Ann knew a ship was coming has remained a mystery. Maybe she felt vibrations from the whistle in the air or smelled the smoke coming from the smokestacks on the steamships. As soon as the first whistles were heard, no matter where Patsy Ann was in town, she eagerly trotted to the pier before the ship was even in sight. She even knew which of the seven docks the ship was making its way to!

A story the locals loved to tell was the time the newspaper misprinted the dock for an incoming ship, which sent everyone to the wrong dock to wait. As Patsy Ann made her way to the wharf, she saw the crowd gathering at the published dock. She stared at them for a moment before moving on to the correct dock and sat down to wait. Every now and then, she’d glance at the people and then turn her head back towards the channel. When the crowd realized the ship was heading for the dock Patsy Ann was at, they began to wander over to join her.

For twelve years, Patsy Ann endured bitter winds cutting across Gastineau Channel as she waited for ships to come into view. She waited through pounding rainstorms, wicked sleet, the harshness of winter, and docks groaning and rolling in heavy waves. Through it all, Patsy Ann stared into the gloom – waiting and watching. When a ship broke through the mist, Patsy Ann wiggled with excitement. The positive attention she received from the passengers and ship’s crew was her reward.

Patsy Ann was given the title of Official Greeter of Juneau by Mayor Goldstein in 1934, and when the town issued new dog license laws, he granted her immunity, which was good since she didn’t like wearing collars and somehow lost each one put on her.

When she wasn’t waiting for ships at the dock, Patsy Ann spent time with her friends in town. The local newspaper reported regularly on her activities, like leaving her footprints in freshly laid cement. She was well cared for by local businesses and probably had more friends than anyone in town. Everyone looked out for the dog and made sure she had shelter and plenty to eat. Her favorite place to sleep was in the Longshoremen’s hall.

News of Juneau’s famous Bull Terrier spread around the world by word of mouth, photographs and postcards with her image on them. Everyone wanted a picture of her. For people visiting Juneau, Patsy Ann was the highlight of their trip.

As she grew older, years of diving into the cold channel waters to meet many of the ships, weather and obesity had taken its toll on the old gal. On the night of March 30, 1942, she settled down for the last time in the Longshoremen’s hall. Patsy Ann died peacefully in her sleep at the age of twelve. A crowd of mourners gathered at the pier the next day and watched as a small coffin was lowered into the icy waters of the channel – Patsy Ann was gone.

On July 3, 1992, to honor this remarkable canine, a life-size bronze sculpture was unveiled at Patsy Ann Square which sits on the waterfront. In a heartwarming tribute, when the sculpture was sent to Alaska, part of the journey was by ship. Encased in the bronze are clippings of dog hairs from around the world to symbolically unite the spirit of all dogs. The statue sits on the main dock so Patsy Ann can continue her duty as Juneau’s Official Greeter, her head turned, watching the channel for ships making their way to dock. Visitors are encouraged to “Greet her and touch her and in leaving, carry with you the blessings of friendship through your life’s journey.”

Top photo by gillfoto
Middle photo by by woofiegrrl
Bottom photo by Eric V. Blanchard

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Breed Profile: Siberian Husky, Work Horse of the North

By Linda Cole

I have always had a love affair with the Siberian Husky. This dog breed is what made living in Alaska possible for the brave souls who chose to live in a harsh, but beautiful, land. One day I was walking my female Husky, Cheyenne. A lady approaching us moved off the sidewalk and said as we walked by that my dog looked mean. It surprised me and I asked her why she said that. “Those eyes look mean.” After she moved on, I looked at Cheyenne. I saw a friendly face with beautiful icy blue eyes filled with playfulness and a dash of mischief. Siberian Huskies were bred to run and it’s the one thing they love to do, but they are also gentle and good natured, with the right owner.

Siberian Huskies (Sibes) are native to Siberia where they were used for centuries by the Chukchi Tribe to pull sleds, herd reindeer, and as watch dogs. Because of their quick speed, fur traders brought them from Siberia to Alaska to run in arctic races. It was the 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska that helped to make the breed popular. Huskies are hard working sled dogs with an amazing endurance to run for an entire day or longer, if necessary, with only short rest periods. They are an intelligent breed and can make smart decisions when needed.

These dogs are strong in body and mind. A medium sized dog with an independent spirit, Sibes are laid back, loving, outgoing, playful, happy dogs who love their family. They are smart, stubborn, strong willed, and very energetic. Training a Husky can be frustrating if you don’t use positive reinforcement training. They learn fast and becomes bored quickly with repetition, so training sessions need to be short. You’re likely to get a look that says, “Nope, don’t wanna do that.” At that point, it’s best to move on to something else and go back to what you were trying to teach later.

A Siberian Husky is born to run and requires daily exercise to keep his mind and spirit sharp. No matter how well trained you think your dog is, never let a Husky off leash. This is a dog with a strong prey drive and he won’t hesitate to chase after a rabbit, cat or other small animal. Once loose, a Husky will only return when he’s ready to, as long as he doesn’t get lost.

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The Sled Dogs of Denali National Park

By Linda Cole

Photo by NPS

Sled dogs have always had a place in the wilds of Alaska. Snowmobiles may have replaced dogs in Alaska for the most part, but mushing is still a good way to get around in winter, and it’s the only mode of transportation allowed in Denali National Park’s inner two million acres of designated wilderness. The National Park Service maintains their own kennel and still uses sled dogs to patrol the wilds of one of the most awe inspiring national parks we have. And this year, the Park Service has installed a puppy cam so we can watch their newest pups as they grow!

The word Denali means “the high one” and comes from the Athabascan Indian vocabulary, Alaska’s largest native inhabitants. Mt. McKinley, located in the park and known as Denali by Alaskan residents, is 20,320 feet above sea level and is the highest mountain peak in North America. Denali National Park, which includes a preserve, was set aside as a national park in 1917 in an effort to protect wildlife. The park covers 9,492 square miles – six million acres of awesome and stunning wild lands that draw visitors from all over the world.

Dog sleds have always been the most reliable way to travel the wilderness of Alaska. Charles Sheldon was a naturalist who studied Dall sheep around Denali during the 1907-1908 winter, and he hired a dog musher by the name of Harry Karstens as a guide. Sheldon was so impressed with the beauty of the land and wildlife, that when he returned to his home on the east coast he began lobbying Congress to establish the land as a national park and preserve. Because of his efforts, Mount McKinley National Park was established in 1917. In 1921, Harry Karstens was named the first park ranger and was tasked with the job of getting pouching under control. Karstens understood the important role dogs played in the wilds of Alaska, and he was the person who built the first kennel to make sure he had healthy and well-trained dogs he could depend on to effectively do his job.

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Why Do Dogs Lick Us?

By Linda Cole

I have a dog who loves to lick legs and feet anytime she catches an unsuspecting bare foot or hand dangling from a chair. I also have one who will sit right beside me while I’m watching TV or working at the computer. Every now and then out of the blue, she’ll slurp me on the side of the face. Do dogs lick us because we taste like salt, are they giving us a kiss, or is it more complicated with no clear answers?

Puppies are groomed by their moms to keep them clean and help stimulate body functions. This is warm and gentle, and feels good to them. The pleasant feeling of their mother’s grooming leaves them with positive memories they carry into adulthood, and they may be trying to share those positive feelings with us.

We know wolf puppies and adolescents greet the adults returning from a hunt by eagerly gathering around them and licking them on the mouth and chin to induce a regurgitated meal from them. Licking is also considered a sign of respect, and is a submissive behavior of welcome given to the alpha and those who are higher in their social order.

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Do They Still Use Sled Dogs in Alaska?

By Linda Cole

Alaska is a land that has not changed a lot over the years. Since joining the union in 1959, it is still one of the states with the lowest population. It’s a land of beauty with mystery hidden in the landscape and behind every snowy hill. It’s a place where having survival skills and knowledge about the animals who share their home with the people make all the difference in the world. The heyday of the sled dogs is gone. They are no longer needed to move supplies and mail from village to village. So why do they still use sled dogs in Alaska?

For centuries, sled dogs were the best form of transportation available in Alaska. For many people living in the wild territory, the sled dog was their lifeline between villages or when out on the trail hunting. In the 1960s, the sled dog was largely retired from service and replaced with snowmobiles and airplanes to transport heavy loads and provide faster travel times between villages. However, just like someone who loves to saddle up a horse and ride the rich history of the old west, there are still those in Alaska who hitch their team up for a day of quiet and solitude with only their dogs for company.

Today, sled dogs are mainly used in Alaska to provide tours for recreational purposes. Visitors to Alaska have a chance to experience firsthand what it was like to travel by a sled pulled by a team of dogs. Gone are the days of requiring dogs to travel 80 miles a day hauling heavy shipments of gold or supplies. The mail route is silent as teams no longer need to deliver the day’s mail. The Inuit Indian tribes have replaced their dogs for the most part with the snowmobile, although sled dogs are still used to a lesser degree to transport them to their hunting grounds.

There’s no question that teams of sled dogs can be more valuable to those who have to travel large distances as compared to the snowmobile which requires gas to move. Dogs are quieter and can detect wild animals that may be lurking in the area. If any are around, the dogs can provide needed protection. A dog’s instinct cannot be overlooked when it comes to being able to stay on a trail and knowing how to avoid dangerous cracks on frozen lakes as well as knowing when it’s best to stay off the ice.

Sled dog racing has been around for centuries. Just as thoroughbred horse racing captivates people in the lower 48, dog racing draws spectators from around the world who come to watch and take part in the races. However, not everyone agrees with horse racing or dog racing. I know dogs used in sled dog races are bred to run and thoroughly enjoy it. I had the joy and honor of owning two Siberian Huskies and can attest that they loved to run any chance they got. Bred as working dogs, sled dogs are happy doing what they do best – just as herding dogs love to herd and search and rescue dogs love to use their exceptional nose to find someone who is in need.

My concern for any animal is how they are treated and cared for. Dogs can become injured while racing. Traditionally, northern dogs were the only breeds used in Alaska because they were able to withstand the harsh temperatures and climate of this arctic state, but today, a variety of breeds can be found among dog teams competing in sled dog racing and marathons.

The northern breeds and others that are trained as sled dogs love to run. Balancing safety and risk to the dogs cannot take a back seat to man’s desire to race. I believe the dogs are monitored to insure their health and well being, and are being attended to by the people who own the dogs.

Today’s role for the sled dogs in Alaska has changed from being a vital mode of transportation to recreational and sporting activities. Sled dogs will probably always be a part of the Alaskan landscape because it’s their extraordinary history that made life possible in Alaska.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Which Breeds Make the Best Sled Dogs?

By Linda Cole

The Siberian Husky is the breed most people associate with pulling a sled, but they aren’t the only breed to make up a dog team. Teams of dogs can be made up of 10 different breeds, but there are only 3 breeds considered to be true sled dogs.

Alaska is an unforgiving country where dogs have provided transportation for centuries. With few roads, the Inuit Indians still use sled dogs today to get to hunting grounds and to move goods between villages. It’s believed nomadic tribes in eastern Siberia were the first people to use dogs to pull sleds or sleighs, but it has never been determined exactly when dogs began pulling sleds for humans.

The term Husky at one time was used to define all northern sled dogs, and they were all considered as one group. The dogs were selected based on their performance rather than a specific breed characteristic. The northern dog of today, unlike other breeds, is considered to be most like their cousin, the wolf. Like the wolf, northern dogs can travel easily over large distances by utilizing powerful leg muscles and backs that enable them to trot at a steady pace for days if necessary. Plus, they are well suited for harsh winter conditions. These dogs are social, but they do have an independent spirit.

There are three breeds considered to be the true sled dogs, selected based on their performance, endurance and the task at hand: Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky and the Eskimo Dog.

The Alaskan Malamute is a hardy dog that is a descendant of the Arctic wolf. Its name comes from the Alaskan tribe called Mahlemut who began raising this breed 2000 to 3000 years ago for transportation. Malamutes are cousins to the Siberian Husky, American Eskimo Dog and Samoyed. Of the three true breeds of sled dogs, the Malamute has the most power, but is slower than the other two.

The Siberian Husky is believed to have been bred centuries ago in Siberia off the eastern peninsula by a tribe called the Chukchi Tribe. The Husky was used as a guard dog, to herd reindeer and pull sleds. Because the Husky is the fastest of the three true sled dogs, they found their way to Alaska by way of fur traders who brought them from Siberia for dog racing.

It was teams of Siberian Huskies who pulled the sleds and musher carrying vials of life saving serum being transported to Nome, Alaska during the 1925 diphtheria epidemic. They also made up a special Arctic Search and Rescue Unit for the Army during World War II because of their sense of smell. The Husky is a strong, surefooted and determined dog. Strong, quick and lightweight, the Husky has the endurance to go long distances and loves to run, as do all three of the true sled dogs.

The Eskimo Dog (Canadian Eskimo Dog) is a true native of Canada. Their early history was aiding Inuit tribes in hunting, guarding and pulling sleds 2,000 years ago. They are an extremely hardy dog and, like the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute, are well suited for living and working in the harsh climate of the north. This true sled dog can pull up to twice his weight and still cover up to 70 plus miles a day. However, the Eskimo Dog is considered to be a rare dog these days and not as well known as their counterparts. This hardy work horse is extremely intelligent and once he learns a command, he never forgets it.

With a muscular, toned body accustomed to pulling heavy loads and running for miles at a time, the Eskimo Dog is playful, submissive, easy to train, not as stubborn as a Husky or Malamute, not as apt to wander away, very alert and curious. This fearless dog was once used for protection from polar bears and musk ox, and was quite capable of holding the wild animal at bay or attacking it, whichever was needed. Compared to the other true sled dogs, the Eskimo dog is moderate in speed and the middleweight of the group.

Most sled dogs are quiet and rarely bark. However, they do howl like wolves which can be a beautiful, eerie sound on a cold winter night. They make excellent family dogs for the most part. I know from experience that the Siberian Husky loves to run, and if they get away from you, they will come back home when they are good and ready.

Other breeds used as sled dogs are: Alaskan Husky, Alusky, Chinook, Eurohound, Greenland Dog, Mackenzie River Husky and Samoyed.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.