From the outside, Bunny looks like your average adorable sheepadoodle. However, thanks to the tireless work of her owner, Bunny can do something truly unique: she can talk.
Now, that's not to say that Bunny is chatting and producing comprehensible sounds with her vocal cords. Rather, her owner, Alexis Devine, taught her to express herself thanks to an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. It is a board full of buttons that, when pressed, play a pre-recorded word. The vocabulary library consists of words like "Bunny," "outside," "play," and much more. Devine initially started out with her passion project, having been inspired by a speech-language pathologist using the same device with her pooch, Stella. But what started as a hobby has grown into something much bigger.
Now, Bunny's social accounts have reached the millions. On TikTok, @whataboutbunny has climbed to 7.2 million subscribers and nearly 1 million on Instagram. And as Alexis's work with Bunny carried on, Bunny found herself able to build more complex sentences and even understand advanced concepts like past tense and an understanding of self! These types of developments have not only spread across the internet like wildfire, but they've also caught the attention of the academic world.
The psyche of canines has continued to puzzle and interest researchers up until this day. Just recently, new findings explained how dogs can "catch" the feelings of their humans. So it was not such a surprise when Federico Rossano of UC San Diego's Comparative Cognition Lab reached out to Alexis wanting to learn more. Together, they embarked on a study of Bunny and other dogs who use AAC devices. Today, the project encompasses over 700 furry geniuses, including cats, dogs, and even horses! "We want to make sure we're not just getting cherry-picked clips," Rossano explained of the rigorous work going into the study.
What started out as a rewarding side project has taken over the globe. And in doing so, Alexis and her pooch Bunny have taught us lessons about animal intelligence that we could never have dreamed of. Stay tuned for more incredible news from the animal kingdom.