Students studying outside the library

UPDATED. VIDEO AVAILABLE: Chaser, Pilley featured on ‘60 Minutes’

Anderson Cooper reports from Wofford on ‘smartest dog in the world’

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Anderson Cooper gets down on the floor to have some special time with Chaser during filming on Wofford's campus in February.
2014-10-03

UPDATE: Video of the "60 Minutes" segment featuring Dr. John Pilley and Chaser with Anderson Cooper can be viewed here: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-smartest-dog-in-the-world/.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – As Dr. John Pilley, professor emeritus of psychology at Wofford College, sat in the glass-encased ante room of the racquetball courts in the college’s fitness center back in February, talking to CBS producer Denise Schrier Cetta, Chaser the border collie sat close by with all her toys – waiting for her chance to play and show off her skills.

Then, a distinctive, and quite recognizable, gentleman – journalist and television personality Anderson Cooper – quietly slipped in. He barely spoke to the humans in the room, and they barely took notice of his presence. His focus was on Chaser, dubbed the smartest dog in the world for her ability to know the names of more than a thousand different toys, amazing scientists who are just beginning to study the brain of man’s best friend. 

Anderson Cooper with ChaserAs he stepped into the room, Cooper didn’t pat her on the head and say, “Good girl,” walking past her to speak to the humans. No, he got down on the floor where Chaser was lying, stretched out on his stomach with his head right next to hers and sweetly patted her head – whispering as if they had a secret nobody else could know.

Now, their secret is out – so to speak.

Chaser and Pilley were featured Sunday, Oct. 5, on a segment of “60 Minutes” with Cooper, which was filmed on campus and at Pilley’s home.

Cooper had walked by incredulous Wofford students working out that Sunday morning in the fitness center – many quickly grabbing their cell phones to snap a quick photo or to tweet their sleepy-headed roommates “guess who I just saw on campus!” Some weren’t even sure they believed their own eyes – this national icon, with his broad smile and white hair. Was that really Anderson Cooper in his blue jeans, button-down collared shirt and black sweater? Was he really here, on Wofford’s campus? Amazing!

Of course, they already had greeted the major star – Chaser. She’s an icon in her own right. She and Pilley, her owner, trainer and “Pop Pop,” are staples for early-morning workout sessions in the fitness center. Chaser taking her familiar blue ball to any student who will look her way – or not – begging for a quick game of catch, while the 85-year-old Pilley does his fitness routine on the exercise equipment.

Chaser quickly gained scientific attention in 2011 for her ability to understand the names of 1,022 objects – her toys. She and the research of Pilley and his Wofford colleague psychology professor Dr. Alliston Reid have received attention around the world since first publishing in the journal Behavioural Processes.

Pilley’s book “Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words” was published in November 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.