Heroes? Father and daughter ‘just reacted’ to thwart dog attack

By David Peck

One of the defining qualities of one called a hero is courage, the courage to face danger for the sake of a fellow man – or woman.

David Romero and Alyssa VanLake might not consider themselves to be heroes, but on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 13, the father and daughter acted without hesitation – and with great bravery -- to intervene in a ferocious dog attack in their neighborhood.

Postal Service mail carrier Natalie Hiser was delivering on her route October 13 when she stopped alongside a house at 205 Oregon, parking on East Second Street on the north side of the home to deliver a package. She was unloading her truck when a pit bull came out of the yard, charged her and bit her leg. She tried to defend herself, but then two more dogs joined in the attack, overwhelming her and dragging her down.

The dogs were often in the yard and had been the subject of some neighborhood complaints, Romero and VanLake said.

“We never saw ‘em do anything, but the neighbors were always complaining about them,” Romero said.

Romero and VanLake were in their house two doors down on Second Street when they heard the postal worker’s screams. Romero works for MTI/American Colloid and happened to be off work that morning.

“We just heard her screaming and yelling,” Romero said. “We were in the house. Our first thought was to look out the window. Where she was, we could see her.”

What they saw horrified them.

“We saw her on the ground with the dogs attached to her arm and legs,” VanLake said. “They overwhelmed her,” Romero added.

Without hesitation, the two exited their house and ran to the fray.

“We just reacted,” Romero said. “We started kicking them off (and yelling). We tried to get to her as soon as we could. We just took off, and after it was all done, we took her to my house, and that’s when we started calling (for medical and law enforcement help).”

“We (wanted to) try to help her and get the dogs as far away as we could,” VanLake added.

“We were both just right there,” Romero said. “One (dog) took off, and another one tried to circle back around. We scared it off.”

The owner of the dogs, Jonathan Vollan, didn’t initially come out of his house during the attack, Romero said, but chief of police Dan Laffin said Vollan was cooperative and apologetic when officers arrived. Vollan was cited for nine charges in the attack: three charges of keeping a vicious animal, three charges of dog at large and three charges of having no town tags for the dogs.

The dogs were later put down.

The two saviors don’t consider themselves to be heroes.

“No,” Romero replied simply when asked. And fortunately, neither he nor his daughter were bitten while intervening in the attack, he said.

Chief Laffin honored Romero and VanLake during the November 9 Lovell Town Council meeting at the community center, saying that, in a day and age when some people might simply watch or even record the attack on a cell phone, the two responded without hesitation.

Laffin said during the presentation that he is thankful for Romero and VanLake “demonstrating genuine concern for others, even above their own safety,” adding, “It’s all too common to see people just stand idly by and ‘video’ terrible things, but David and Alyssa didn’t do that. They ran to (Miss) Hiser’s aid. Well done.”

Mayor Tom Newman presented Romero and VanLake with certificates of appreciation, prepared by Laffin. The wording on the certificates is similar, and VanLake’s reads: “Alyssa VanLake conducted herself with tremendous bravery and genuine care and concern for her fellow citizen. The morning of October 13, 2021, Alyssa heard the terrified screams of a woman being attacked by three dogs. Without hesitation or fear for her own safety, she immediately advanced to the citizen to render aid and ensured the attack was repelled. Ms. Vanlake’s care for her fellow citizen stands as a testament for others to emulate. We wish to express our sincere appreciation.”

Asked if they had any message for other citizens faced with a similar situation, Romero replied, “I just hope there’s more people like us out there who wouldn’t hesitate to help another person out.”