The story of Skagway’s ugliest dog is best told by one of her owners. You may remember Frank Wasmer from January’s Pet Page. Frank is a treasure box of “pawsitive tails.” As he puts it, “I’m old; I’ve had a lot of pets.” Two more honourable mentions in his repertoire are Misty, a very cute dog by Frank’s own conclusion, and Patsy, Skagway’s ugliest dog by “official” town judgement.
“Patsy won the ugly animal contest five years in a row. They used to have a spring festival called Winfest and one thing they did at Winfest was the ugliest animal contest. The first year they had it, Patsy won it. And the second and the third and the fourth! And on the fifth year, the judges were not going to give it to her. The judges were Buckwheat and a woman. I forget her name. Anyway, when they announced that they were not going to select Patsy that year, Patsy tried to pee on the woman’s foot and they decided that was so ugly, she won it the fifth year too.”
“That’s not true!” I said, but Frank sticks to his story. Having known Frank for years, I’ve heard many amazing tales that I know are rooted in fact. He’s lived a long life. Interesting things happen.
Desperate for a visual, I asked Frank what type of dog Patsy was. He just chuckled. “Patsy was a mutt. Wirehaired fox terrier and chihuahua and something else snuck in. So she had a massive underbite. Her lower jaw stuck out probably three-quarters of an inch past her upper jaw. She looked like she had, not quite a grin, but something akin to that. Her coat was generally short except, right down the side of her head, from front to back, all the way, she had finger-length long hair! A top knot like a mohawk. The neighbour across the road said that Patsy was the dog God made with the leftover parts, and that fit!”
That neighbour is now 92 and Patsy is long gone. She lived in the pre- cell phone and digital camera era so, unfortunately, Frank could not easily find a photograph of this iconic dog. Perhaps some things are better left to the imagination.
Almost all of Frank’s pets have come from shelters or “in package deals” with the many foster kids that have come through the home of Frank and his late wife, Nancy. Where Patsy is an example of the latter (she came with their foster daughter Tina), Misty is an example of the former, having come from the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter at the request of Jenny, a foster daughter who yearned for a pet.
Small dogs are less common at Mae Bacher, so the family had kept a close eye on the website. When Frank met Misty, he knew right away she was a winner. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body.
“She was a really, really smart dog. It took me 10 minutes to teach her to sit and stay. She sat peacefully all the way home, driving to Skagway … When she got home, she took one look at Nancy and said ‘Nancy, I’m your little dog and you are my person.’ So she was really attached to Nancy. Patsy was the same way,” Frank reminiscenced affectionately.
Where Patsy was unabashedly ugly, Misty was innocently cute. She had long black hair that puffed out over her ears and between the digits of her paws.
“Misty was a mix. She had lots of different things in her. She had some springer spaniel in her, but that long hair, I don’t know where that came from.”
When she was clipped, she got frisky and put on a type of dance for Nancy, who always liked small dogs.
“She had all kinds of tricks,” Frank said. She would balance a biscuit on her nose until given the nod. Then, in a fraction of a second, she would have that treat in her mouth without it ever hitting the ground.
She could even play the piano on cue. She would hop up on the bench when told “up” and hit the keys when she heard “play.” Frank laughed remembering one man who, perhaps expecting Beethoven, was disappointed with her performance. But I was privy to Misty’s “shows” and I thought they were grand and oh-so funny!
As she got older, Frank repaid Misty for her years of tricks and loyalty by patiently taking her out to pee at all hours of the night and making her as comfy as possible. She lived to be 19; almost as impressive as Patsy’s preceding record of 21!
As he got older, Frank’s life has been enriched by all his canine friends (so have the lives of his family members.) Never one to shy away from adding another mouth to the table, or dog to the dog bowl, he has an endless supply of both vet bills and seemingly tall, but all too true, “pawsitive tails.”
Very different in appearance from one another, both Misty and Patsy were two of those colourful souls that provided companionship to his family and warm, comical memories. Is this not the common dog’s greatest purpose?