You might all know of Alexander Graham Bell as the man who revolutionized modern communication with his invention of the telephone. But that’s not Bell’s only contribution to making communication accessible to all.
Even before he started his work on developing the telephone, Bell dedicated a better part of his research to helping the deaf speak.
And Alexander Graham Bell dog Trouve was his capable companion in the process.
Although short-lived, Alexander Graham Bell and Trouve’s saga remains one of inspiration even today.
Image : Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc
Bell’s Family and Where It All Began
Born to a famous elocutionist father, Bell grew up in the proximity of two men who had dedicated their lives to making deaf people hear and speak. Both his father and his grandfather worked closely with the deaf, pouring in relentless effort day and night.
In fact, his father devised a method called Visible Speech that used symbols in writing to imitate words.
And like an ideal son, Bell followed suit.
It was while he was growing up that his mother’s hearing started to deteriorate. At the time, his father tasked Bell with creating a “talking machine”. Although it didn’t come to fruition until years later, this marked a watershed moment in his life.
Trials with Trouve
While Bell was very well acquainted with his father’s unique method of Visible Speech, he spared no efforts to come up with a process of his own.
Thus began his trials with his pet dog Trouve.
Trouve was a Skye Terrier that Bell’s family had since the time he was a young boy. Over the years, the two developed a close friendship which would form the basis of Bell’s experiment.
Bell conjectured that if he could make Trouve “speak”, he could help the deaf to speak too.
He started Trouve off by teaching him to growl at his command and stop growling when he asked it to. While this was easy enough, Trouve needed to learn how to growl continuously without interruption for a long period of time. A fair share of trials later, Trouve learned how to do just that.
Soon enough, Bell would successfully teach Trouve syllables like “oo”, “ow”, and others.
His tireless pursuit would finally lead to Trouve saying, “How are you, grandmama?” or, the dog equivalent of it.
That’s how Trouve emerged to be the first dog in history that could “talk”.
Image: Library Of Congress
Trouve Learns to Speak
Bell said that as the two of them continued working together, Trouve became particularly fond of the sessions. From just being able to say “mama” to “grandmama”, the Terrier had indeed come a long way.
Sadly though, Trouve was never able to “talk” on its own. The dog needed Bell’s cues and coaxings through treats to be able to communicate.
In Bell’s own words, he noted that Trouve could only talk when manipulated to do so.
“I made many attempts, though without success, to cause him to produce the effects without manipulation”, he said.
However that did not prevent Trouve from becoming a celebrity. Stories of Bell’s “elocutionist” dog spread far and wide. Soon enough, Trouve came to be known as The Talking Dog and his popularity grew by leaps and bounds.
And that’s the story of Trouve, an Alexander Graham Bell dog that could “speak”!
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