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

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.


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The past year has changed the way a lot of people see the world and brought the importance of global change to the forefront. However, even social impact entrepreneurs have had to adapt to the changing circumstances brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.

"The first barrier is lack of funding. COVID-19 has deeply impacted many of our supporters, and we presume it will continue to do so. Current market volatility has caused many of our supporters to scale back or withdraw their support altogether," said Brisa de Angulo, co-founder of A Breeze of Hope Foundation, a non-profit that prevents childhood sexual violence in Bolivia and winner of the 2020 Elevate Prize.

To help social entrepreneurs scale their impact for the second year in a row, The Elevate Prize is awarding $5 million to 10 innovators, activists, and problem–solvers who are making a difference in their communities every day.

"We want to see extraordinary people leading high-impact projects that are elevating opportunities for all people, elevating issues and their solutions, or elevating understanding of and between people," The Elevate Prize website states.

Founded in 2019 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph Deitch, The Elevate Prize is dedicated to giving unsung social entrepreneurs the necessary resources to scale their impact and to ultimately help inspire and awaken the hero in all of us.

"The Elevate Prize remains committed to finding a radically diverse group of innovative problem solvers and investing unconventional and personalized resources that bring greater visibility to them as leaders and the vital work they do. We make good famous," said Carolina García Jayaram, executive director, Elevate Prize Foundation.

The application process will take place in two phases. Applicants have till May 5 for Phase 1, which will include a short written application. A select number of those applicants will then be chosen for Phase 2, which includes a more robust set of questions later this summer. Ten winners will be announced in October 2021.

In addition to money, winners will also receive support from The Elevate Prize to help amplify their mission, achieve their goals, and receive mentorship and industry connections.

Last year, 1,297 candidates applied for the prize.

The 10 winners include Simprints, a UK-based nonprofit implementing biometric solutions to give people in the developing world hope and access to a better healthcare system; ReThink, a patented, innovative app that detects offensive messages and gives users a chance to reconsider posting them; and Guitars Over Guns, an organization bridging the opportunity gap for youth from vulnerable communities through transformational access to music, connectivity, and self-empowerment.

You can learn more about last year's winners, here.

If you know of someone or you yourself are ready to scale your impact, apply here today.

Just over a year into the coronavirus pandemic, we're finally seeing a light at the end of our socially distanced tunnel. We still have a ways to go, but with millions of vaccines being doled out daily, we're well on our way toward somewhat normal life again. Hallelujah.

As we head toward that light, it's natural to look back over our shoulders at the past year to see what we're leaving behind. There's the "good riddance" stuff of course—the mass deaths, the missing loved ones, the closed-up businesses, the economic, social and political strife—which no one is going to miss.

But there's personal stuff, too. As we reflect on how we coped, how we spent our time, what we did and didn't do this past year, we're thinking about what we'll be bringing out of the tunnel with us.

And some of us are finding that comes with a decent dose of regret. Maybe a little guilt. Some disappointment as we go down the coulda-woulda-shoulda road.

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RODNAE Productions via Pexels
True

The past year has changed the way a lot of people see the world and brought the importance of global change to the forefront. However, even social impact entrepreneurs have had to adapt to the changing circumstances brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.

"The first barrier is lack of funding. COVID-19 has deeply impacted many of our supporters, and we presume it will continue to do so. Current market volatility has caused many of our supporters to scale back or withdraw their support altogether," said Brisa de Angulo, co-founder of A Breeze of Hope Foundation, a non-profit that prevents childhood sexual violence in Bolivia and winner of the 2020 Elevate Prize.

To help social entrepreneurs scale their impact for the second year in a row, The Elevate Prize is awarding $5 million to 10 innovators, activists, and problem–solvers who are making a difference in their communities every day.

"We want to see extraordinary people leading high-impact projects that are elevating opportunities for all people, elevating issues and their solutions, or elevating understanding of and between people," The Elevate Prize website states.

Founded in 2019 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph Deitch, The Elevate Prize is dedicated to giving unsung social entrepreneurs the necessary resources to scale their impact and to ultimately help inspire and awaken the hero in all of us.

"The Elevate Prize remains committed to finding a radically diverse group of innovative problem solvers and investing unconventional and personalized resources that bring greater visibility to them as leaders and the vital work they do. We make good famous," said Carolina García Jayaram, executive director, Elevate Prize Foundation.

The application process will take place in two phases. Applicants have till May 5 for Phase 1, which will include a short written application. A select number of those applicants will then be chosen for Phase 2, which includes a more robust set of questions later this summer. Ten winners will be announced in October 2021.

In addition to money, winners will also receive support from The Elevate Prize to help amplify their mission, achieve their goals, and receive mentorship and industry connections.

Last year, 1,297 candidates applied for the prize.

The 10 winners include Simprints, a UK-based nonprofit implementing biometric solutions to give people in the developing world hope and access to a better healthcare system; ReThink, a patented, innovative app that detects offensive messages and gives users a chance to reconsider posting them; and Guitars Over Guns, an organization bridging the opportunity gap for youth from vulnerable communities through transformational access to music, connectivity, and self-empowerment.

You can learn more about last year's winners, here.

If you know of someone or you yourself are ready to scale your impact, apply here today.