Sullivan Honors Alaskan of the Week: Sherry Bess

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) spoke last week on the Senate floor in recognition of Sherry Bess, of Homer, who has spent nearly three decades caring for the community’s homeless and abandoned animals as manager of the Homer Animal Shelter. Bess was recognized as part of Senator Sullivan’s series, “Alaskan of the Week.”

The following is the statement submitted to the Congressional Record:


Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. President, every week I have been coming to the floor to recognize someone in my State who has made a difference, someone who has devoted time and energy to making my State a better place to live for others. We call these individuals our Alaskan of the Week.

As I have said repeatedly, I believe my State is the most beautiful State in the country. We have visitors. We want to welcome more and more visitors. Come on up. I guarantee it will be the trip of a lifetime.

When you go to Alaska, one town that nobody should miss is Homer, AK. It is surrounded by the glistening waters of Kachemak Bay, jagged mountains, glaciers, and snowcapped volcanoes. Some people call it the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World. Others call it the Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea. Some, like me, call it a slice of Heaven.

I was there a few weeks ago holding a community meeting. I thanked them then, and I want to thank them all today for the very warm welcome I received.

I also wish to thank Homer for the very warm welcome they gave to Navy destroyer USS Hopper, which spent a few days in Homer before participating in a joint naval exercise with the Army in the Gulf of Alaska. The 300-member crew of the USS Hopper was greeted by hundreds of cheering, flag-waving Homer residents. The commander of the Hopper, J.D. Gainey, wrote that in his 24 years of naval service, “I have never seen as much patriotism as we enjoyed in Homer.” Thank you, Homer, from all of us. Alaskans love Homer.

They see it for the landscape but also for the people. It is a tight-knit community. They might not always agree with one another, particularly with regard to politics, but they look out for each other. Like any community with a heart, they look out for their animals.

This week I want to recognize a special person as our Alaskan of the week, Sherry Bess, who spent nearly 30 years--three decades--taking care of Homer's animals as the manager of the Homer Animal Shelter. In 1989, when Sherry began to volunteer at the pet shelter in Homer, there was one building, no phone, and only four cages to hold cats. “It was basically a shack,” she said. The snow would come in through the dog door. The drains in the water bowls would freeze. Sherry's hands and feet were always cold, and it was infested with mice. There was no bathroom. Oftentimes, when the shelter was too busy and when the animals needed extra care, Sherry would take them to her home, where she would care for them.

Sherry and a handful of residents cared for over 1,200 animals each year in that little shelter.

Along the way, she gathered both happy stories and heartbreaking stories about the animals she found that were abused and the ones she found homes for. In fact, one of the members of my team in Alaska took a puppy that had been abandoned in a crate in the woods near Homer, took him home, fed him, and Mick Fleagle on my staff now has a dog. His dog Sookie, 8 years old, has the full reign of the house. He is loved.

Thanks to Sherry, stories like that abound throughout Homer. For 26 years, she has worked night and day, 7 days a week, for the pets in that community. She recently stepped down from that job. She is taking care of her own pets, lots of them--her family she calls them--but she will always be known to so many people in Homer for what she has done for their pets and their animals.

“Over the years, those animals that came to me,” she said, “...unwanted and sad and depressed, and then you help them and you love them and they go to a home and they're loved. That's the most rewarding thing about what I did.”

Sherry said over the years she has noticed that the residents of Homer and throughout the country have been kinder to their pets. Part of that is the result of what Sherry and others like her across the country do to educate the public on taking care of animals through vaccinations, neutering. Some of it is more and more because people like Sherry are considering pets as their families.

So I want to thank Sherry, as our Alaskan of the Week, for all she has done and for all she has done for pets in our great State. Great job.

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