Lip balm doesn’t defuse riverside standoff |

Lip balm doesn’t defuse riverside standoff

Polly Letofsky/Special to the Daily
After a harrowing encounter with an untrained, unchained posse of angry dogs, Polly found haven in a hotel with a cat at the front desk.

By now two, three, four – wait a minute – there’s five, holy cow, six dogs! Oh for chrissakes, there’s seven, auuuughhh, eight dogs! I scrambled for my pepper spray while muttering utterances like “Golly jeepers!”

Eight dogs tore down the embankment from their farmyard and out into the road, snarling and barking, forming what was starting to look like a posse. I pointed my yellow canister at them.

I’m surprised whenever dogs back off when I point the pepper spray at them, as if they have any clue what it is. When I’m out of pepper spray, I thought, I suppose I could equally frighten them with a stick of lip balm.

But if they were frightened at all by my pepper spray pointing, they got over it. Andrew was right, I had lost the element of surprise. Now they were just pissed.

A couple of dogs moved to the front of me, a couple to the back and a healthy group was at my right side. I don’t know what kind of dogs they were – didn’t matter – they all had nasty growls and had clearly been trained not to stay on their property, but rather to kill girls in orange.

Polly’s last stand?

I wondered if this is what Custer felt like at Little Big Horn. Maybe someday too soon, right here near Wexford, Iowa, they’ll have a plaque commemorating “Polly’s Last Stand. Killed by eight wild dogs. Lost the element of surprise.”

Naturally I expected an owner, upon hearing the racket, to come off the farm and rescue me. But why I thought that an owner who has no fenced yard, but eight untrained, unchained snarling dogs might be responsible enough to get himself off the couch and tear himself away from Jerry Springer only proves my naivete.

The dogs had surrounded me now and when two of them started to lunge at me, I started to spray.

One spray, two spray, I even started barking back at them. They were unnerved. I wondered if my pepper spray was out of date, but this was not the time to look at the date, nor did I even want to know. Ignorance is vastly underrated.

It’s ironic that I had just heard a similar story. Someone recently told me about a new mother out pushing her new born baby in a stroller when a similar posse of dogs came racing around the corner and attacked her. They tore her to shreds while she instinctively hovered over the stroller to protect her baby.

She survived, and the baby remained unharmed, but that story was being replayed in my head as the dogs started to surround me and I had nothing to protect myself but a stroller and a seemingly useless canister of pepper spray.

Help on the horizon?

I saw a car coming around the bend. It was slowing down as to not hit the dogs in the middle of the road. I waved and waved to get their attention but it seems that because I was dressed in orange, they must have thought I was a road construction worker. I had to show a little more urgency.-

I threw my arms above my head flailing wildly then ran to the middle of the road to stop the car front and center. The dogs were on the other side.

There was a young couple inside who I’m sure were thinking why is that girl out walking a baby with eight unchained dogs? I yelled over the barking and spoke fast.

“HI! Listen, I’m walking across the country and this pile of dogs has just run off that farm and getting really is aggressive. Could you stay with me for a couple hundred yards and help serve as a buffer between me and the mad dogs!?”

He nodded. She stared. Both had faces like question marks. I can’t imagine what they heard or the conversation that took place afterwards.

Probably, “Honey, what did she say?”–

“I don’t know, but she looks very threatening with that lip balm.”

The couple stayed with me, putting their car between the dogs and me, and I ran. And ran. After a few hundred yards I was free.-

I wondered if Huck Finn had ever been chased by killer canines. And that was probably before lip balm had been invented.

Cat comfort

The Great River Road lead me into the quaint little river town of Marquette and the Frontier Hotel. Todd, the owner, who had generously donated a room, greeted me at the front door. Right away I noticed in the front window of reception, also there to greet me warmly, was a fluffy black and white kitty cat.

“Oooh,” I cooed, “You have a kitty cat!” and I went right over to give her a scratch behind the ear. The kitty lifted her chin inviting more – no teeth, no lunging, no barking, just a purring bundle of kitty love.

I scooped her up in my arms to give her a tickle in the belly and asked Todd what her name was. He said they call her Sweetie. I ask you, how many kitty cats named Sweetie would kill?

Honestly, where is the cat verses dog argument here?

Editor’s note: Vail resident Polly Letofsky has been on the road since she left town Aug. 1, 1999, on her mission to become the first woman to walk around the world and promote awareness of breast cancer. From Vail she first walked to the West Coast, then crossed to the two islands of New Zealand, up the eastern coast of Australia and on to Malaysia and Southeast Asia, India, Turkey, Greece, Great Britain and Ireland. She’s now back in the United States, having arrived in New York City and crossed New York State to the Canadian Border at Niagra Falls. She’s expected to reach Vail in August. This is a recent installment from her journal, written earlier this month. You can follow along with Polly’s journey on her Web site,

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