Daniel (left) and Jesse McIlhenny are thrilled to have Moses back, thanks to a Good Samaritan in Mt. Airy.

by Rich McIlhenny

We were thankful that things had settled back in to normal after our dogs Moses and Mickey escaped from our yard last weekend. While Mickey returned after 30 minutes with the hair on his back raised up, Moses was gone for the better part of two days before he was found with the help and care of the wonderful people in our Mt. Airy community. It was a great relief to us after much worry and lack of sleep before he was back safely in our home.

We spent the first week after they escaped arranging for the installation of a higher fence and also replacing our gate that Mickey, the largest of our three dogs, has been trying to knock down and open since we got him. He has a routine of running full speed towards the gate and pushing both of his paws into it in an attempt to dislodge the latch, so he and Moses and Matty can go off exploring the neighborhood.

When letting the dogs out in the yard this past week, we have been trying to keep an eye on them to make sure they weren’t up to any shenanigans or figuring out another way to get loose. Ever since we adopted Mickey at the Garden Festival two years ago, when offered an open back door, he has led Moses in a mad dash that begins with a futile attempt to catch one of the several squirrels that would rush up a tree or over the fence in the nick of time. Then it’s back to barking at the squirrels or a neighbor’s dog and then off for another lunge at the lower part of the gate.

As I was upstairs the other day looking up some real estate properties for a client, my wife Marissa had just come home from work at the same time that Duane Large, our sons Jesse and Daniel’s music teacher, had arrived to give the boys drum and guitar lessons. Meanwhile, our 18-year-old Chinese exchange student, Rudy, was rooting through the refrigerator for a pre dinner snack.

Marissa let Moses and Mickey out for their usual routine and then tried to coax Matty, the matriarch of the doggy family (and who went missing for 30 days some years ago) to go outside with them. While Matty growled, Marissa looked up to see Moses and Mickey in the yard, playing tug of war with one of their stuffed animals, which they then tossed back and forth to each other. She smiled softly at the adorable sight when she suddenly caught a glimpse of two cartwheeling arms with little claws reaching out to her and a face with a little open mouth, bucked teeth and terrified eyes looking at her in desperation.

After all of these years of chasing, the dogs had finally caught a squirrel. As I stopped working and got ready to come downstairs, I heard Marissa and the boys screaming in terror at the top of their lungs. I rushed down the steps, and all I could make out was “RICH!!! MOSES!!!!BLOOD!!! MICKEY!!!SQUIRREL!!!DAD!!!”

As I ran into the kitchen to find everyone looking out into the yard screaming over and over, I worked my way through them and ran into the yard to see one of the most bizarre sights I have ever encountered in my life.

There Moses and Mickey stood, side by side, facing me. I first looked right towards Mickey, who was sporting his usual happy-go-lucky, always-on-the-verge-of-getting-himself-into-trouble grin, which was now mixed with a gloating triumph at having finally caught one of the squirrels he had chased approximately 2700 times, according to my math of five times a day for a year and a half.

My gaze then shifted left to Moses, who stood completely still with a look of terror on his face and blood dripping from his left ear onto his white coat and leg. And there with its teeth clenched into the pretty red bandanna that a groomer had tied around Moses’ neck hung a juvenile squirrel, panting heavily with its eyes half-shut in exhaustion. As the world stopped and I could no longer hear the screaming behind me, I focused on the front of Moses and thought, “Moses is wearing a squirrel tie.”

I quickly realized it was no tie and that it was alive, and the screaming suddenly came roaring back into my ears. As I rushed towards the dogs, the squirrel let go of the bandanna and took off for the back of the yard. Mickey gave chase and scooped the poor little rodent up in his mouth, and I was chasing them both screaming at him to drop the squirrel, which he suddenly did.

I shouted at the top of my lungs, “GET ME A BAG AND A TOWEL!!!!” and turned back to find that the squirrel had affixed itself to the left leg of my running pants, which caused Mickey to try and leap at him over and over, while Moses wandered in a daze back towards the house. A still screaming-at-the-top-of-her-lungs Marissa stopped 10 feet short of me to throw no fewer than seven paper shopping bags and four of her best dishtowels at me, all of which landed about nine feet short.

She continued to scream at the sight of Moses, who was now dripping blood on the kitchen floor, and I felt the squirrel jump off my leg as I yanked Mickey back towards the house. I got them all inside and locked the door before scooping Moses up to rush him to Mt. Airy Animal Hospital. They determined he had a hematoma of his ear, where the squirrel had bit him causing internal bleeding.

As we sat in the waiting room and Moses growled at seven dogs that came and went and that were about the size of 50 squirrels each, Jesse called to see how he was doing. I explained to our 10-year-old that Moses had a hematoma, which he then shouted to Marissa, who immediately got on the phone and screamed in my ear, “HE’S IN A COMA???!!”

When I came home that night after leaving Moses there, Marissa told me that Mickey had run to the back of the yard and was pawing at what was probably the dying squirrel, who was hiding behind a piece of roofing slate. I went back inside and brought out a broom, a dog carrier and a towel and tried repeatedly to capture the squirrel and get him in the carrier, only to have him run up the tree each time with me trying to knock him down and grab him with no success.

Finally I was able to get the towel around the squirrel, and pry his claws off of the side of the slate with the end of the broom and quickly threw him into the dog carrier. I was happy that he was safely away from my maniac dogs and in a warm place for the night. The next day I took him to The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education’s Wildlife Rehab in Andorra, and the saint that is Rick Schubert took the squirrel and got it started on liquids. He said the squirrel was about six weeks old and was already injured or sick if the dogs had been able to catch him. I then headed back to Mt. Airy Animal Hospital, where I picked up Moses, who was sent home with an Astro Jetson head cone that he has used to knock over plants and furniture with and about 23 prescriptions, ointments and lotions that we will both forget to give and apply on a daily basis for the next two weeks.

Soon we will have our new fence and gate; the squirrel will be healthy (Rick Schubert says the squirrel is doing much better and will eventually be released back into the wild); Mickey will stop leading a cone-less Moses into terrifying situations; Marissa will stop screaming, and I will get some rest.