Telling truth from fiction in Lyon County

I could tell you that the life Tom and Lee Blomquist have chosen - living with 37 animals in a double-wide mobile home - is one of unconditional love from purring cats and well-behaved dogs.

But that would be a lie.

It may have been the perfect thing to say on Saturday night at the 1st Occasional Lyon County Liar's Contest in Yerington, a benefit for the nonprofit Silver Springs Spay & Neuter Project run by the Blomquists.

The reality of the couple's lives is work, however, and plenty of it. Cleaning cat boxes and dinner bowls. Lugging around buckets of water. Grooming dogs and cats. More cleaning.

"We go through an incredible amount of bleach," he said.

Sometimes, they get bitten for their trouble.

Their animals are rejects, head cases, victims of abuse or disease. Only a few of them are adoptable, meaning they have the ability to function in a normal household. There's a hound named Raven, who takes barbiturates to control his seizures and visions of imaginary friends. The pit bull in the front yard will quiver and cower if you raise your hand to scratch your ear, he's been beaten that much.

Backyard Fred is part coyote. He jumped the fence one day to join the pack. If he were human, Tom says, he'd be the type who rolled his own cigarettes and drank your beer when you weren't looking.

"He's a real jerk. I love him," Tom confessed.

They're troubled animals, sometimes due to the troubled humans who once owned them. They once rescued kittens from a boy who was throwing them against a wall, and from his father, who saw nothing wrong with his son's activities.

"This is not an easy thing to do, but it's something we have to do," said Tom, 55. "We're not going to stop. It's become what our life is."

That's not to say they don't get their share of affection from the dogs and cats.

"The joke is only eight of them sleep on the bed," he said.

Their rescue shelter has a good relationship with Lyon County's shelter, which sometimes has to euthanize animals that cannot be adopted.

Tom accepts that. He'd like to save them, but "there's so damn many of them."

Spaying and neutering is the answer, he says.

Tom is somewhat of a reverse Johnny Appleseed, doing whatever he can to convince people to get their dogs fixed so they don't plant more seeds. Sometimes, he says, his tactics border on extortion, when he offers bags of dog food to people buying pets in exchange for a spay or neuter promise.

Most of the Blomquists' animals will be with them until the end, and anyone seeking to adopt one of them ought to prepare for a thorough background check.

"The animals are content here," he said.

The Blomquists never intended to run an animal rescue center.

After their marriage, they intended to make a living selling rare books on the Internet, when they settled in Lyon County in 1995, while Tom dealt craps at a nearby casino.

But then the animal thing began, and it became all-consuming. Along the way, he's become known as an eccentric, and outspoken on animal issues.

Once, in protest of the county commission's refusal to widely advertise for a new Animal Services coordinator, he wore shorts and a tuxedo and set out to hitchhike from Mound House to the Yerington City Hall.

The seeds of the liar's festival were sown long ago when he noticed the Lyon County emblem also included a bull and a shovel. He saw an opportunity to tweak county officials he'd been sparring with, and the event went off without a hitch on Saturday. Six liars stepped up to the podium and did their best to avoid honest statements.

Blomquist said they'll probably hold the event again next year.

If you're interested in learning more about the Blomquists' efforts to rescue animals, visit the Web site It hasn't been updated in a while, he said, but it does contain a lot of information about their history and some of the animals they've owned.

• Barry Ginter is editor for the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at or 881-1221.


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