They band together in a desperate cause, battling to protect man's best friend from the worst of human nature.
Silver Springs is not alone in its horror stories about abandoned and neglected pets, but it does seem to have more than its share.
Those in the forefront of the battle include Tom and Lee Blomquist, founders of the Silver Springs Spay-Neuter Project, and Lyon County Animal Services supervised by Ted Bolzle. Regionally, they work with many other individuals and animal-welfare groups.
The Blomquists moved to Silver Springs about nine years ago to escape Santa Barbara, Calif., expecting a more laid-back lifestyle.
"The week we moved in, we rescued seven animals within sight of our kitchen window," Tom Blomquist said.
They also rescued some kittens whose litter was being disposed of by being thrown against a wall.
Today, the Blomquist home in Silver Springs has been turned into a licensed dog sanctuary with 20 dogs and eight cats. A list of their animals is a list of hard-luck cases that would have been euthanized without a second thought.
Bumper is blind. Shadow has diabetes. Rusty ran out of time at the county shelter. Peka's and Gabby's owners moved without them. Chelsea, at 10 years, was too old to be adoptable; now she's 18. Truckers, called the "psycho dog," was found in the middle of Highway 50.
The Blomquists also have three adoptable dogs they are fostering until they find permanent homes.
As they rescued more and more dogs, Lee Blomquist went back to college to become a registered veterinarian technician. She now works with Dr. Lisa Hayden in Yerington as well as with her own pack of rescued pets.
"That was the best thing we ever did," said Tom Blomquist, who pays the bills by working as a banquet server for the Reno Hilton. "What would have been an emergency a few years ago is now something casual."
They also founded the nonprofit Silver Springs Spay-Neuter Project to educate and help people spay or neuter their pets.
"By this time (of my life), I expected to be dealing craps part time and studying history," Blomquist said, showing off his bookcase-lined office, which is now a "cathouse."
Other areas of the home are filled with dog crates, pens and rubber trash cans filled with various food mixtures. Outside, their yard is divided into numerous large pens, where compatible groups of dogs can romp and be segregated from less-compatible dogs. The hours from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. are dedicated to feeding and dispensing pet medication.
Although they get help tending to the animals from friends and volunteers, there is little break time between caring for and calming their charges and finding help for other animals in danger.
"What I've learned is you can't rescue them all," Blomquist said. "Most of these animals we've had since the first year."
They can only take in another animal when one dies or is adopted. But many more Silver Springs dogs need homes. So the Blomquists focus their public efforts on reducing the number of unwanted pets in Lyon County by promoting spay-and-neutering projects.
Several years ago, it was that message that caused them to cross swords with the previous management of the county animal services. It had been lax about following state law that all animals over 4 months old would have to be neutered or spayed to be adopted.
Today, the Blomquists work closely with Lyon County Animal Control.
"Tom had valid points," said Bolzle, who recently became Animal Control supervisor. "Spaying and neutering animals is the law. We've addressed that."
Part of the problem, he added, was that shelter volunteers felt it was better to accommodate people who couldn't or wouldn't adopt if they had to spay or neuter the animal. But pets breed, and that compounds the problem.
Keeping control of the animal population in a spread-out county can be daunting.
Bolzle supervises three animal control officers and volunteer office staff who handle animals throughout Lyon County. Yerington has an animal shelter with 10 dog runs, and Silver Springs has 30 dog runs.
"We've had three calls already today from people wanting to bring in their puppies," Blomquist said early one afternoon on a tour of the shelter. "There are not enough homes for all of them."
"We have 30 dog runs," Bolzle said, adding that it's not unusual to pick up six to eight stray dogs a day. "We've taken in 800 dogs this year. A bigger shelter would only delay the problem.
"People want us to be a no-kill shelter, but we could have 1,000 runs, and they'd still fill up."
The shelter tries to limit euthanasia. Bolzle said October is their fourth month without euthanizing an adoptable dog. So far this year, they've put down 32 adoptable dogs because of overcrowding. But that is a fraction of two to three years ago, when 250 adoptable animals were euthanized.
The shelter staff works hard not only to find homes but to improve a dog's adoptability.
Staff and volunteers walk, play with, and begin training dogs. New owners are given help with training. They've expanded the "mobile adoption" process, which prepares animals with spaying or neutering and rabies shots so they're ready to adopt.
"We want to be sure we're adopting out a good-quality product," Bolzle said.
The shelter staff also strives to match an animal to an owner's lifestyle.
Bolzle said only one dog has been returned in the last year, and it was an adoption they had discouraged. An elderly woman fell in love with an Australian shepherd - a very active breed. Without enough exercise, Aussies
jumped from here
become hyper, mischievous and even destructive.
Even with all the work, an animal that starts out being adoptable, after months in a cage, may develop kennel stress.
"There are a lot of unadoptable dogs in this area - dogs that have been locked up in a pen for four years without interaction," Bolzle said referring to a recent case. "We don't have enough foster homes, people who know how to handle (dogs with behavior problems)."
Although few adoptable dogs are euthanized, so far this year, 230 dogs considered nonadoptable have been put down to make room for those that have hope.
"There's no magic deadline." Bolzle said. "We try to hold them until either they are adopted or kennel-stressed and they're no longer adoptable."
"We focus on trying to help them get dogs out of here," Blomquist said of his organization.
That includes helping potential adoptive families spay and neuter an animal or by providing free food. Sometimes a little help will even keep an animal in its original home.
Animal foster homes help when shelters get overcrowded. But there are not enough qualified people willing and able to take in animals.
Blomquist noted many people start taking in animals, but get in over their head. Some end up in court because the animals are neglected. A case currently in the courts could put another dozen animals up for grabs.
"It's not just the space, but the time to deal with individual animals," Bolzle said.
There are preliminary plans to expand the shelter to help keep up with the population. Bolzle would also like to see several satellite shelters to make it easier for owners to reclaim runaway animals.
Animal control and the spay-neuter project are also increasing efforts to educate animal owners about spay-neutering and basic animal welfare.
"I don't know if its working, to be honest," Bolzle said. "There's a lot of resistance to licensing dogs. But all a license does is prove to me that your dog has been vaccinated against rabies."
Another change Bolzle and Blomquist would like to see is outlawing such things as passing out free puppies at the grocery story, which is already illegal in Carson City.
"It's impulse shopping," Blomquist said. "(Pet ownership) is an eight-, 10-, 12-year investment."
But until people start taking responsibility for their animals, the problem will continue to grow.
Pointing to the dogs in the shelter, he added, "These are all the broken promises here. There are a lot of excuses why they can't take care of their pets. I have met people who move into campgrounds to save their dog."
"We're on the right track here," Bolzle said. "All in all, we're doing good."
Contact reporter Sally Taylor at email@example.com or 881-1210.
You Can Help
Silver Springs Spay-Neuter Project:
P.O. Box 403, Silver Springs NV 89429
Lyon County Animal
3705 Highway 50 W.
Silver Springs, NV 89429