TNB Night Owl – Stella, A Dog With A Hunger For Words

Stella, the world's first talking dog. Image captured by the News Blender.

Christina Hunger is a speech-language pathologist who works with children in the Chicago area. About three years ago she and her husband adopted a Catahoula – Blue Heeler (a.k.a. Australian Cattle Dog) mix puppy, which they named Stella. The pup’s intelligence was immediately obvious, and very shortly Stella was quickly learning and understanding the meaning of words.

Hunger was struck by a similarity between her new doggo and the children that she worked with. Many of those children were able to understand the meaning of words, but lacked the ability to speak with their own voice. Technology had been successfully employed to provide those children with a means to verbalize words: the device was a large button, which when pressed played back a pre-recorded word. A collection of these buttons allowed a child to ‘speak’ sentences. Realizing that Stella was highly intelligent but lacked the ability to form words, Hunger wondered if the same technology could be used to give Stella a voice with which to communicate.

It took a few weeks of training, with a button by the water dish that said, ‘water’ when pressed, and a button by the door that said, ‘outside’, but Stella caught on to the idea that she could communicate her wants and needs.
“Stella’s First Word” (0:15):

Once Stella had grasped the concept, Hunger started arranging buttons together on a board on the floor. Not only was Stella’s vocabulary growing, her memorization abilities were increasing since she had to remember which buttons played which words, a skill analogous to the children’s card game ‘Concentration’. She also started using nouns and verbs together. “”Park Park Play!”” (0:17):

Eventually, Stella learned to speak in sentences of four and even five words at a time. “”Stella want play outside”” (0:15):

Amazingly, she also seems to grasp the concept of time! (Animals are smarter than we think). “Stella wants to know “when”” (0:36):

Since Stella became an internet star, thousands of dogs from around the world, and even some cats, have begun learning to talk. In hindsight, this approach seems so simple and obvious, it’s a wonder no one tried it before. Hunger has written a book to be published soon if it hasn’t already, called, “How Stella Learned To Talk”. Stella’s website and YouTube channel, both called ‘hungerforwords‘, are “Dedicated to the belief that everyone has something to say”.

“Meet Stella, the dog that “talks”” (3:52):

Question Of The Night: Do you have a funny/good story about you, your kids, or someone else, learning to talk? What was your first word?

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About Richard Doud 622 Articles
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Never stop learning. No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.