For most of us, when we tell our dogs to speak, we get bubkis. Nada. Zilch. Maybe a delayed bark, which may or may not have anything to do with the command itself. But when Christina Hunger tells her dog Stella to speak, she gets a full-on conversation.
See, Hunger is a speech-language pathologist who utilizes Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems to better mindmeld with toddlers who don’t communicate via verbal speech. And she fashioned a similar adaptive device for her 18-month-old Catahoula/Blue Heeler mix, Stella, which so far allows the good girl in question to use up to 29 words, sometimes five at a time!
Hunger first started working with the adaptive AAC device with Stella when the pup was a wee 8-weeks old. If you’ve ever tried to get a puppy to listen, you can understand Hunger’s motivation. To begin with, Hunger recorded the word “outside,” and created a button that would play it out loud when Stella pushed it.
Yes, that’s cute and adorable, and possibly coincidental, but as you track Stella’s progress, you start to realize that the pooch is definitely communicating, possibly brilliantly so… like Caesar in Planet of the Apes brilliant.
Being so astute, “Outside” quickly led to other words: “eat, water, play, walk, no, come, help, bye, love you,” as Hunger notes in her very first post from her Hunger For Words blog, where you can track all of Stella’s progress. And oh what progress she’s made!
Now Stella’s even bypassing simple words to make for more poetry. Instead of just using the “bye” button, she added “good” first, to make her own “goodbye.”
While that is truly amazing, as of now, we’re not too worried about Stella obtaining Caesar-like abilities, and we’re not expecting a Planet of the Dogs scenario to be forthcoming. But should it get to that, we’d like to state here and now that we are firmly on the side of the dogs.