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Idaho Life: North End rodent den

You can't be the City of Trees without also being the City of Tree Squirrels. It's one thing to see them scampering around the neighborhood, but it's another to have them hightail it into your heart.

BOISE - "Can you think of other animals that eat plants?" asks Tiara Valentine.

"Uh, bunnies?" answers her 8-year-old daughter, Aislynn.

In their 900-square-foot home in Boise's North End, Tiara is teaching her two kids about the food chain.

"Bunnies are definitely herbivores," Tiara responds "What about you, Kyle?"

Homeschooling wasn't always part of Tiara's parenting plan.

"A carnivore is a thing that eats meat," says Aislynn.

Now, it's hours of their daily routine.

"What does the word herb mean?" Tiara asks her 10-year-old son, Kyle.

Explaining the appetites of animals is right up Tiara's alley.

"Yeah, I've always had a soft spot for animals," she admits, while sitting at her kitchen table.

That fact is evidenced by what is darting about in a cage behind her.

"I was always the little girl that would rescue the little wounded animals and or nurture them and set them free," says Tiara.

Except this one she's held on to a little longer. Tiara opens the cage to introduce Mossy, a fox squirrel Tiara took in last summer. She entices Mossy to come out of the cage with a sunflower seed she is holding in her lips. Mossy gently takes the seed and opens it while holding it in her tiny paws.

Back in June Tiara and her husband were eating outside when they heard what they thought was a bird in distress. After 40 minutes of hearing it, they investigated.

"And my husband spotted her on a tree just across the street," recalls Tiara. "About two feet up on the trunk, just clinging."

Tiara noticed Mossy had rubbed the fur and skin off her belly trying to get back into her tree.

"And she was just this tiny, I mean, she was so tiny," Tiara remembers. "She fit in the palm of my hand."

Mossy was just weeks old, and leaving her there to let nature take its course wasn't an option. The plan was to get her healthy and let her go.

"But she started to develop a spiral tail," says Tiara.

That deformity affected Mossy's balance and her communication skills since squirrels use their tail to express themselves. Then there was the whole bonding thing that Tiara didn't intend.

"I wasn't just her source of food anymore," she says. "I was also her source of comfort and safety."

So now Mossy has made the Valentine nest her own.

"Now she's a family member," admits Tiara. "Yeah, she really is."

And she's an active addition at that, whether she's hiding marbles in the living room rug, just making an outright mess, or even helping out with the baking.

"She's peeling the bananas, she's sticking her face in the flour," Tiara says about Mossy's skills in the kitchen. "She loves the cornmeal."

All of those moments Tiara's shared on Mossy's own Instagram account, including the chiropractic care for that squirrelly spine. It seems all her needs, including nuts, are no longer a worry. Making Mossy more than just another squirrel.

"Just like with homeschooling, it was not a planned part of my life but I've embraced it and I love it and it works for us," says Tiara. "And at this point, I can't imagine what life was like before her, you know? It's so weird."

Squirrels living indoors, what's weird about that?

"Yeah, that's what I do, I love animals," laughs Tiara.

Since last summer Tiara has adopted another squirrel into her home that was also unable to be reintroduced to the wild of Boise's North Eend.

By the way, fox squirrels can live up to 18 years old in captivity, meaning Mossy may live longer under Tiara's roof than her own children.