Sean Ishol, of Lucerne Valley, California, was putting a load of laundry into the dryer Monday when he heard his two dogs whimpering and crouching down.
After cleaning out the lint trap and adding time to the dryer, Ishol walked over to see what was perplexing his pups. His wife, Bobbi, was on the other side of the garage — where their washer and dryer is located — also inspecting the situation.
As he bent down to get a closer look, Ishol saw a dark shadow and two light eyes peering out at him from behind the machines. Instantly, Ishol recognized it was a mountain lion and he slowly backed away, instructing his wife to do the same.
"This thing ... it’s just looking at us. I could have pet the dang thing [it was so close]," Ishol, who estimated the big cat was even taller than his 5-foot-8 frame, told Fox News. "We both reacted. I went out to the door and my wife went to the opposite side of the garage, where it's locked."
Realizing his wife was trapped, Ishol grabbed a nearby PVC pipe and put it between the mountain lion and Bobbi. When she successfully made it to their door, the pair ran into the house.
"[I've] never encountered a mountain lion before, and I hope we never have another one," Ishol said. "It was crazy. We could have died!"
Ishol said his first instinct was to pray.
"We're firm believers in God, so you know, it immediately went to a prayer to the Lord," he explained, recalling the Biblical story of Daniel in the lions' den.
Despite never having encountered a mountain lion, Ishol said he knew a run-in would always be a possibility, especially since his family owns several animals — chickens, goats and dogs. Ishol said a storm Monday may have also prompted the big cat to seek shelter inside the home.
Mountain lions are classified as a "specially protected species," making hunting the big cats illegal; however, there are strong populations of the big cats in The Golden State, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). More than half of the state is "mountain lion habitat," the California DFW says.
"Mountain lion studies over the last 30 years have estimated population densities for different habitat types around the state. These density estimates varied from zero to 10 lions per 100 square miles, and were simply expanded to the total amount of each habitat type available," the agency explains on its website.
"[I've] never encountered a mountain lion before, and I hope we never have another one."
Ishol knew if the couple didn't do anything startling they had a good chance of escaping unscathed.
"Worst case scenario, I would have leaped in front of my wife and taken the hit," he added.
Luckily, he didn't have to. Together, they called animal control and waited for a professional to handle what they estimated to be a roughly 100-pound cat.
"This happened at 8:25 p.m. [Monday] and they didn't get here until 12:44 a.m. [Tuesday]," Ishol said. "I just really needed my clothes for work!"
When the animal control officer arrived, Ishol opened the garage door and the wildlife official examined it, identifying it as an older female. They safely removed the mountain lion from the Ishols' property.
From now on, Ishol said he will be prepared — inspecting his garage and areas around his home as well as carrying a firearm when he's out checking on his animals at night.
"I knew God could protect us. He was definitely there with us ... that's the only reason we're still here," Ishol added.