I did not even have to ask. I knew they all were dying to hear about the Pumpkin Feelie Heads that they had helped invent and engineer for this year's Howl and Growl Adoption Event at the Pumpkin Patch.
Although they did not like not being able to go...or even send an ambassador...the WDA understood that we were next to the Great Dane rescue group which does not crate its often nervous adoptable dogs and that the event draws lots of costumed children, many on sugar highs and filled with over enthusiasm. There was some relief that they would be spared...except Zsofia who REALLY wanted to go. "Little One," White Dog told her, "maybe next year. You would be a lunatic and momma would be unable to focus on telling people about Paws To People because she would spend every moment worrying about you or keeping you from mischief."
Last summer, at our annual Advisory Board meeting, the Breast Cancer Resource folks gave an excellent presentation that concluded with the passing around of three boxes. Each contained a rubber model of a woman's breast. The object was to feel the breast to find the hidden lumps of different sizes within the "tissue." One of the attendees, feel in love with this concept and became obsessed on how P2P could use a model to educate about lumps and bumps. She threw the challenge at me for the Howl and Growl Event that she organizes. Obviously, a more family appropriate model was needed...and one that did not cost what these professionally made models in special display boxes did.
So White Dog, our resident engineer, and I sat down and came up with a rough concept. The rest of the White Ones helped decide how we would depict various body conditions like tissues, blood, brain matter. Then we debated how to represent the general idea that lumps and bumps came in different sizes and shapes and felt differently. Oh, and we had a typical small non-profit's budget of $10 to do this.
"Keep it light and fun," YoYoMa advised. "Play on the icky gruesome Halloween theme," added Bella. "But make it like a mad scientist thing," Taiko threw into the conversation. "You know, with rubber gloves and stuff." "Yeah, if you make it for the kids, the grownups will play, too, because everybody likes this kind of fun." Puff shared. "And while they squish and feel, they can learn," Sachi concluded.
So we sent Steve on a shopping mission with a list: 4 plastic pumpkin heads, 4 pairs of bright yellow cleaning gloves, oil, eggs, oatmeal, rice, caramels and grapes. While he was gone, Zsofia helped me find heavy black plastic yard bags, the duct tape, packing tape, scissors, buttons, and whole walnuts.
It was like a night in the laboratory as we all gathered together. All that was missing was the lightening storm raging outside (Thanks dog, Yo thought).
Into the pink pumpkin head went cooked oatmeal which had grapes hidden within...
The orange pumpkin was filled with dry rice and soft caramels...
Green, held raw eggs in which walnuts floated...
And the purple was filled with oil and a handful of buttons.
"OK when do we eat the oatmeal and the eggs," Zsofia asked, jumping up and nearly knocking over the lab. "You DON'T," WD snapped, stopping Yo's tail mid wag.
Next came the part where we needed the special skills of our resident architect. The pumpkins needed to be completely closed with black plastic so that it formed a closed sock to reach into the heads and feel around...without being able for anyone to view the contents.
Steve cut cone shapes from the corners of the bag and thrust the point into the pumpkins. Then he duct taped the top edge of the pumpkin, rolled the plastic down a few folds and attached it to the pumpkin. Momma, ever practical, insisted on over taping the edge again sealing both plastic and pupkin with clear packing tape to reinforce the connection so there would be no seal failure as hands pushed in and plunged around over and over.
"What do you think?" Steve tested each pumpkin and thrashed around in the mitten to make sure the system would hold. "Good!" "Better take both tapes and some extra bags," White Dog advised. "You never know."
So here is what we ended up with...and people loved it. Puff was right, more grownups than kids wanted to try and their guesses about what they felt was interesting. The WDA howled at the multiply given response to the rice filled pumpkin..."Is it cat litter and poop?"
And in the course of the laughs and squeals, we had the opportunity to remind people that we can't always tell with our eyes when there is a problem. It is important to hug our pets and feel them and massage them...to know their bodies. Not all lumps and bumps are bad...some are little fatty tissues or cysts...but some are reason for concerns...and all are flags to ask your vet.