“Talking” Bunny the Dog Blows up on TikTok

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By Jieun Paik, Staff Writer

TikTok has been home to multiple viral oddities. Offering everything from coffee recipes to political discourse, it’s not surprising to see a talking dog pop up on your feed.

Alexis Devine is a 40-year-old woman from Tacoma, Washington. She runs the TikTok account @what_about_bunny, which features her 15-month-old sheepdog named Bunny. In various 30-60 second long videos, Bunny stands in front of sound buttons, and strings together sentences for viewers to marvel over. They oftentimes consist of short commands or simple sentences commenting on day-to-day occurrences but have amassed millions of views and a dedicated following.

One video, in particular, has 22 million views. Bunny walks over to her mat of buttons and presses three buttons in succession. “Ouch” and “Stranger”, which alerts her owner to something hurting her. When Alexis Devine asks her dog about the location of the “ouch”, Bunny presses the “Paw” sound and walks over to the camera. Alexis (and viewers) find a foxtail stuck in Bunny’s paw.

What’s even more interesting is Bunny’s development. Compared to that of a child’s, her ability to form cohesive thoughts and establish a connection between words and objects have grown immensely since her very first videos.

Bunny initially started with words like “park” and “food”, and connected the words to the objects or places they represented.

She has recently grasped more complex concepts, such as episodic memory. This allows her to recall specific events after they have happened, such as visiting the park a couple of hours back.

What does this mean for the future pet owners?

It doesn’t exactly mean that pet owners should start teaching their pets to press buttons. For one, scientists are skeptical about Bunny’s ability to “speak”. They compare her case to the “Clever Hans” case, in which a horse that could supposedly solve math problems turned out to just be following simple cues.

But they don’t have enough evidence to say anything for sure. Perhaps Bunny really does understand how to communicate with her owner, and this is just the start of a groundbreaking wave of new information.

Wayne Hills sophomore Wajiha Rizvi comments that “I think it is really cool how Bunny’s owner taught her to communicate with her. If this technology were available to other animals, perhaps it could be a major advancement”.

This brings up many questions about animal intelligence. Bunny’s videos on TikTok are not just viral videos with a large following. Her videos contribute to a conversation that has been ongoing since humans have been co-existing with animals. They suggest a future of companionship between humans and animals as they start to understand each other on a much deeper level, thanks to the advances of science and technology.