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Speech pathologist teaches her dog to use a soundboard and now it communicates in sentences
via Hunger 4 Words / Instagram

This article originally appeared on 11.08.19


Christina Hunger, 26, is a speech-language pathologist in San Diego, California who believes that "everyone deserves a voice."

Hunger works with one- and two-year-old children, many of which use adaptive devices to communicate. So she wondered what would happen if she taught her two-month-old puppy, a Catahoula/Blue Heeler named Stella, to do the same.

"If dogs can understand words we say to them, shouldn't they be able to say words to us? Can dogs use AAC to communicate with humans?" she wondered.


Hunger and her fiancé Jake started simply by creating a button that said "outside" and then pressed it every time they said the word or opened the door. After a few weeks, every time Hunger said "outside," Stella looked at the button.

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Soon, Stella began to step on the button every time she wanted to go outside.

They soon added more buttons that say "eat," "water," "play," "walk," "no," "come," "help," "bye," and "love you."

"Every day I spent time using Stella's buttons to talk with her and teach her words just as I would in speech therapy sessions with children," she wrote on her blog.

"Instead of rewarding Stella with a treat for using a button, we responded to her communication by acknowledging her message and responding accordingly. Stella's voice and opinions matter just as our own do," she continued.

If Stella's water bowl is empty, she says "water." If she wants to play tug of war, she says, "play." She even began to tell friends "bye" if they put on their jackets by the door.


Stella soon learned to combine different words to make phrases.

One afternoon, shortly after daylight savings, she began saying "eat" at 3:00 pm. When Hunger didn't respond with food, she said,"love you no" and walked out of the room.

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Today, Stella has learned over 29 words and can combine up to five at a time to make a phrase or sentence.

"The way she uses words to communicate and the words she's combining is really similar to a 2-year-old child," Hunger says of her blog.

She believes her work has the potential to transform the bond between humans and dogs.

"I think how important dogs are to their humans," Hunger says. "I just imagine how much deeper the bond will be."

Stella asking to play ball outside.

Stella clearly wants some more breakfast.


After a fun day at the beach, Stella wants to go back.


Stella telling Hunger that she doesn't want her to leave to work.


10/10. The Mayyas dance.

We can almost always expect to see amazing acts and rare skills on “America’s Got Talent.” But sometimes, we get even more than that.

The Mayyas, a Lebanese women’s dance troupe whose name means “proud walk of a lioness,” delivered a performance so mesmerizing that judge Simon Cowell called it the “best dance act” the show has ever seen, winning them an almost instant golden buzzer.

Perhaps this victory comes as no surprise, considering that the Mayyas had previously won “Arab’s Got Talent” in 2019 and competed on “Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions.” But truly, it’s what motivates them to take to the stage that’s remarkable.

“Lebanon is a very beautiful country, but we live a daily struggle," one of the dancers said to the judges just moments before their audition. Another explained, “being a dancer as a female Arab is not fully supported yet.”

Nadim Cherfan, the team’s choreographer, added that “Lebanon is not considered a place where you can build a career out of dancing, so it’s really hard, and harder for women.”

Still, Cherfan shared that it was a previous “AGT” star who inspired the Mayyas to defy the odds and audition anyway. Nightbirde, a breakout singer who also earned a golden buzzer before tragically passing away in February 2021 due to cancer, had told the audience, “You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” The dance team took the advice to heart.

For the Mayyas, coming onto the “AGT” stage became more than an audition opportunity. Getting emotional, one of the dancers declared that it was “our only chance to prove to the world what Arab women can do, the art we can create, the fights we fight.”

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