Bluebird has snapped-up an “extraordinary” book by communication expert Christine Hunger about how she taught her dog to "talk".
Publisher Carole Tonkinson acquired UK and Commnwealth rights, excluding Australia, New Zealand and Canada, to How Stella Learned to Talk from Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein acting for Ryan D Harbage and Christopher Hermelin at the Fischer Harbage Agency in New York.
Part memoir, part how-to-guide, it tells the true story of how speech language pathologist Hunger taught her puppy Stella to communicate. Their journey began when she wondered if the tools she used in her work with verbally impaired children could be applied to communicating with her dog.
Hunger used simple and easily replicable homemade technology like buttons secured onto plywood that played words when pressed with a paw. Hunger was then able to teach Stella words from simple concepts such as “walk” and “play” all the way through to more complicated sentences that expressed preference and emotion.
The publisher said: “Talking revealed Stella’s inner world to Christina, enabling her to see how minor changes in routine upset Stella, and to her preference to go out on a walk with both of ‘her humans’ rather than just one. In one ground-breaking moment of communication between the pair, Stella asked 'Christina, play, come, love you'. Stella now has a bank of more than 30 words and chooses to use the phrase 'love you' to only a very few of her closest people.”
Tonkinson said: “When I pitched this book at our acquisition meeting, some of my colleagues had to fight back a wave of emotion. There are so many books about dogs and communication and their inner worlds, but this is the first manual to help us have a conversation with our very own animals. Christina’s Instagram following went from a few hundred followers to over 700k after a short piece about her work appeared in People.”
Hunger added: “I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to share how Stella's communication has created an incredible connection between us. Watching Stella learn to talk has transformed the way I think and the way I view the world. I hope Stella and I can inspire others to explore new ideas and think deeply about how we all perceive those who are different from us.”