Now Thanks to Suzanna Goodin, Pets Can Clean the Bowl—and Then Eat the Spoon That Feeds Them

updated 03/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

It was time to feed Ginger and Cinnamon, and that meant 6-year-old Suzanna Goodin had to dig a spoon into smelly canned cat food. Pee-yew! She hated the cleanup afterward even more. "Mama yells if I don't wash the spoon," says Suzy. "It's yucky."

When Ann Gillingham, her first-grade teacher at the Hydro Elementary School in Hydro (pop. 1,000), Okla., announced that everyone in the class should come up with an invention for the Weekly Reader's second annual inventors' contest, Suzy decided to see what she could do about making the odious task of feeding the Goodin family's two house cats easier. The solution, Suzy decided, was an edible spoon, one strong enough to scoop out the pet food but not so strong that you couldn't crumble it up afterward and leave it in the kitty chow as a gourmet garnish. The cracker recipe, devised by Suzy with the aid of her mother, Jennifer, 30, and her grandmother, Wanda Gilchrist, 60, is a closely guarded secret, but Suzy admits it has "lots of garlic—canned garlic, garlic salt, all kinds of garlic."

Suzy's edible pet-food spoon, one of 200,000 submissions to the Weekly Reader contest, won the grand prize for the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade division. Her award: a $500 savings bond and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for last month's National Inventor's Expo. She liked Washington and the Expo, but the plane ride out, her first, was a problem. "My mom got seasick of it, and my brother got seasick of it, and I got real seasick of it," she says.

The folks in Hydro were delighted with Suzy's win, particularly since the Goodin family is one of the town's hard-luck cases. Suzy's mom, a part-time student and lab worker, is divorced and has had difficulty making ends meet. Last Christmas the town took up a collection for the Goodins when Sam, Suzy's twin, announced at school, "We're not having Christmas this year." The twins' older brother, Seth, 9, is deaf and blind.

The Goodins are hoping that life may get easier if they can find a backer to pay the costs of patenting Suzy's spoon, or if a pet-food company is willing to buy the idea.

Suzy, meanwhile, is inventing ways to spend her $500. "I'm going to use it for a wedding dress," she says, "but not until I'm at least 18."

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