Meridian Police officer Ashley Turner said in her more than five years of policing, she's never seen a case quite like the one she encountered last week.

Turner was tasked with investigating four home burglaries that took place in south and central Meridian around Feb. 6.

While taking fingerprints off a gun safe at Adam and Carmen Pearl's house, Turner was startled by an unexpected creature that scurried into the bedroom and ran around her feet.

“Whoa! What is a squirrel doing in your house?” Turner recalls asking him.

“That's just Joey,” Adam Pearl responded. “My pet squirrel.”

You know, no big deal.

“She hadn't seen Joey yet because he was up in his hammock or something,” Pearl said.

Turns out the officer wasn't the only one surprised by this unusual resident. Joey actually frightened away the burglar, Turner said.

“It scared him, obviously, because he wasn't expecting to have, you know, a squirrel come flying out of nowhere at him,” Turner said. “So basically he said he took what he could and left as fast as he could.”

Turner said the suspected burglar told her about the incident during a police interview. He is a juvenile who has a history of run-ins with police, she said.

“The kid, he would have stolen a lot more, it's usually kind of what he does,” Turner said. “But in that house where the squirrel was, he was only able to get like two items.”

Those two items were a pack of cigarettes and a gun magazine with bullets, Turner said. The suspect told her that the squirrel “attacked” him as he was trying to break into the safe.

Now Pearl, 41, is hailing Joey as a guard squirrel. Joey is even a TV star, having been featured on KIVI-TV.

The Pearls brought Joey into their home six months ago when he was only about a week old, Pearl said. Their friend's daughter had found him in a flower bed after he was apparently pushed out of the nest.

They had no idea Joey would later come to their rescue.

Turner said she has advised people worried about break-ins to get a dog, but maybe a family of squirrels is a better idea, she joked.

(Note: Neither of us are seriously advising that. I did call Idaho Fish and Game, however, and learned that it is legal to have a fox squirrel — the most common ones around town — with the proper license.)

While at the Pearls' house, Turner observed Joey running around playfully, jumping up on Adam's shoulders, and rolling around in the cupboard with a jar of peanut butter.

“The squirrel, it just was like a normal pet,” she said. “They called it by name, and the squirrel would come.”

Joey only comes if he knows you have a treat, Pearl clarified.

“He's not like a dog and walks up and lets you pet him,” he said. “I guess the temperament would be more towards a cat — if he wants attention, then he'll come and let you know.”

Turner said Joey chattered excitedly when he was about to get a treat. She observed that he was content, playful and right at home.

Pearl even posted a picture to Facebook of Joey sitting on his head — which he no longer allows because Joey's nails have become as sharp as needles, he said.

Over the months, Joey has become part of the family, Pearl said. He eats squirrel food, greens (spinach is his favorite) and nuts.

“He gets all of them in the shell, so he leaves a big mess in the kitchen,” Pearl said. “We sweep up every day.”

But other than that, Joey isn't too messy. He hangs out in the house all day, burying nuts in the houseplants and in his sandbox, where he also goes to the bathroom.

“He trained himself,” Pearl said.

Adam and Carmen have also rescued ducklings in the past. They have two pet ducks — Gunner and Emily — as well as five chickens, a water dragon and a tegu lizard.

Pearl said he's not sure why they're drawn to such nontraditional pets.

“They're companions, I guess,” he said.

The Pearls' original plan was to release Joey into the backyard in the spring.

“But now, I don't know,” Adam Pearl said. “I'm kind of torn.”

When Pearl got home after the burglary, Joey's strange behavior — along with the odd footprints in the snow — alerted him that something was amiss.

“Normally he sits in the kitchen on his chair,” Pearl said. “So for him to come running down the hallway was a little bit odd.”

Pearl later found the blade of his pocket knife broken off in the lock of the gun safe Carmen gave him for Christmas. He called the police, and Turner came out that evening.

Joey, as a reward for his brave efforts, got his favorite treat — a Whopper candy.

“I've seen some weird things in my time as a law enforcement officer,” Turner said, “but I can honestly say that I've never met anybody with a pet squirrel.”

Fortunately, police recovered about 90 percent of the items from the four burglaries, Turner said. The suspect, who won't be identified because he is a minor, was arrested.

Maybe next time he's tempted to steal, he'll remember the day he met Joey.

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