PALMER -- It was 10:15 p.m. on a Saturday and time for Popkorn's nightly potty break.
Jeanne Novosad stepped out on the porch in her stocking feet Jan. 1 to let the 7-pound Yorkshire terrier do her business. In keeping with her nightly routine, Popkorn jumped off the porch, relieved herself and barked a couple of times. Then she froze.
Novosad called Popkorn, but the little dog stood still, staring toward a corner of the house. Novosad looked toward the corner and saw what she believed to be a wolf trot toward her dog and snatch it in its mouth. Novosad watched in horror as the 75-pound animal crushed her petite pet.
"He killed her instantly," Novosad said recently.
The dog that took Popkorn from the Novosad home west of the Glenn Highway is, according to borough records and Palmer police reports, a 5-year-old male husky-wolf mix named Jazz-Bone.
Novosad recounted for Palmer City Council the death of her pet to encourage it to ban wolf hybrids as pets in the city. The council agreed Feb. 28 to a citywide ban on wolf hybrid ownership.
Palmer's law is stricter than state law. Alaska law since 2002 prohibits ownership without a permit of wolf-dog hybrids after June 30, 2002.
Animals in possession before that date must be registered, spayed or neutered and fitted with a microchip. A microchip the size of a rice grain, injected into an animal's upper back, provides an identification number that can be used to track the animal. To read the number, animals are scanned with a special hand-scanner widely used by veterinarians and animal shelters.
Dave Allison, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough's animal care and regulation chief, said a wolf hybrid picked up as a stray or brought to the shelter is not adoptable, and it can only leave the shelter with its owners.
Palmer police Sgt. Lance Ketterling said it's difficult to say how many wolf hybrids live in Palmer. He doesn't see a lot on his patrol rounds, he said, but people could house the dogs indoors.
"There's no way of knowing how many are in the city," Ketterling said.
Allison said the borough doesn't track how many wolf hybrids are in the Valley, although wolf hybrids do come into the shelter occasionally. Borough regulations do not prohibit ownership of wolf hybrids, and neither do Wasilla animal regulations.
The city Animal Control Board heard Novosad's case Jan. 25 and classified Jazz-Bone as "vicious." The board allowed owners Anthony Nolin and Patricia Cunningham to collect the dog from the shelter, with the stipulation that he be housed in a secure enclosure.
Allison said his staff recently inspected Jazz-Bone's living quarters at Wolf Country USA, a tourist attraction outside the city that advertises wolf viewing and puppies for sale, and found the dog in a pen that met city requirements. Novosad appealed the Animal Control Board decision to return the dog to his owners, and the matter will be reviewed at the board meeting 7 p.m. Thursday in the Palmer City Council chambers.
In the past two months, Novosad has retold the story of Popkorn's death many times. It still makes her eyes well with tears. Her pets, she said, are like her children. And knowing a dangerous dog may live in the neighborhood has her concerned -- not just for the safety of neighborhood pets, but for the safety of children in the area.
"It got my dog, but it could just as easily have been a kid," Novosad said. "If it had been somebody's child, it would have been a whole new story."
With Popkorn in its mouth that Saturday, the black, wolflike dog took off into the woods near the Novosad home. Novosad panicked and ran after him in just her socks. Realizing she wouldn't get far in the snow, she ran and told her husband, John, who set out after the dog. Novosad called the Palmer Police.
Officer Donna Anthony and John Novosad followed a blood trail to a nearby quarry. According to Anthony's incident report, officer Kelly Turney joined the search and spotted the black dog. The report stated the dog "was aggressive" toward Turney.
Anthony, in her report, stated she came around a hill and saw Turney. The dog was about 25 feet away, pacing. The dog became skittish, then headed back into the woods.
Nolin, one of the dog's owners, captured him the next day, according to the officer's report, after feeding the dog tranquilizers embedded in meat. The dog was taken Jan. 3 to the Mat-Su Animal Care and Regulation shelter.
Nolin disputed details of the police report.
With a city ban on wolf hybrids, Novosad said she feels a little reassured. She's worried, though, that wolf hybrids moved out of the city as a result could get loose and return to their territory.
Daily News reporter Rindi White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-6709.