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The 60 Minutes Dog Segment That Brought On The Waterworks

Dr. John W. Pilley, a former Wofford College psychology professor, dedicated himself in his later years to testing the intelligence of his beloved Border Collie named Chaser. In a 2009 video for Wofford College, Pilley shared that he had come across research from Germany that indicated a dog called Rico was taught 200 words. He explained his belief that his dog would be capable of such a feat, as her breed possesses the natural inclination for attentiveness and understanding language. He and his collaborator Dr. Alliston Reid decided to train Chaser through classical conditioning and gave 1,022 of her toys specific names. Through the training, his canine managed to comprehend each toy's name. "The key thing is to try to teach the dog two concepts: one is knowledge that objects have names but then the dog needs to learn some cue on how we connect the words with the object so that the dog has to know what particular object the words refer to," explained the behavioral psychologist.

During a 2013 interview, while promoting his book, "Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words," Pilley shared that he felt the data he collected while studying Chaser's capability for language was significant for all dog owners. "Learning the names of over 1000 objects, learning by means of exclusion, these kinds of findings definitely show that your animals, especially dogs, are not machines with blood, they have emotions, they have mental processes," the scientist said.

Pilley and Chaser appeared together during a 2014 episode of "60 Minutes." In the segment with Anderson Cooper, Chaser showed off her intelligence and bond with her owner.

Viewers were touched by the 60 Minutes episode

During the "60 Minutes" segment, Pilley asserted that Chaser was more than just his pet or research subject. "She's our child, a member of the family," stated the former professor. He also likened her intelligence to that of a 2-year-old child. 

Several viewers were touched by Pilley's strong bond with Chaser. For instance, one viewer, @jj1106, shared they believed the former professor and his dog's relationship was impactful in the YouTube comments section of the "60 Minutes" segment. "What a sweet, wonderful man. I'm so happy that Chase had him and they had each other. Such a touching relationship that I hope will have a great impact on the way we see and treat, not just dogs, but all animals," read the comment. 

In addition, YouTube users @kaylajames5538 and @sompeihayakawa6963 revealed they cried while watching the segment. A different person, with the username @dogbonemalone8977, commented that they appreciated Pilley's connection with his dog. The commenter also noted that the former professor and his Border Collie have since passed away. "Aww. Bless them both. It warms my heart to see a man love his doggo so much and visa versa. RIP the two of you. Together again for eternity," wrote the commenter.

According to Chaser's official Facebook account, the dog passed away in 2019, 13 months following her beloved owner's death. The post revealed that Pilley's family decided to bury her in a place of honor. "She is buried with the other Pilley dogs, sprinkled with John Pilley's ashes," read a portion of the post.