Sherry Bess: tireless pet advocate

Oct. 10 was a joyous occasion at the Homer City Council. Accolades for our outgoing mayor, the swearing in of a new mayor and two new council members. Congratulations, one and all. Bryan, Shelly and Tom are my friends, and I shared in the celebrations (mmm, great cake). But somewhere in all the festivities the passing of the torch — the passing of an era — went almost unremarked and unnoticed.

After two and-a-half decades of managing the Homer Animal Shelter, Sherry Bess and Coastal Animal Care are stepping down. The contract was awarded to Amy Ware and “Mindful Paws.” You had to really be listening close, as this item on the agenda was a “fait accompli,” a done deal, no discussion or vote. Both Francie Roberts and Mayor Wythe mentioned Sherry’s service briefly in their remarks during the evening.

Now, Amy is great. We know and have worked with Amy for a couple of years now. Amy Ware will do a good job for this city as your new shelter manager and animal control officer. But, these are big shoes to fill.

For 26 years Sherry Bess has been a tireless advocate for the lost, stray and homeless cats and dogs of this city. This is a seven-day-a-week job, and this has been her life. I know. For the past eight years I have been right there beside her, day in and day out, trying to make a difference by providing quality of life for each and every animal that comes through those doors. There are no holidays, there are no days off. And at times, this job will break your heart. You get to deal with a wide range of people about emotionally charged issues (their pets!), and you cannot, and will not, please all of the people all of the time.

We owe Sherry Bess and the “Shelter with a Heart” a debt of gratitude. This bar is set high, Amy, and I sincerely hope that you and your employees and volunteers will strive to maintain the same level of care and compassion — a true shelter — for all creatures great and small. Sherry and I are both moving on. The lost and abandoned cats and dogs of this area are counting on you, to take that extra step to open your heart and say, “Yes, we can make a difference in this one life!”

The end of an era, folks. No, Sherry doesn’t expect, require or need a gold watch, or even a cake and applause. But you know, a sincere thank you, from this city, after all these years of service, would be nice.

Brian Smith

Shelter volunteer