‘Smartest dog in the world’ trainer, professor Dr. John Pilley passes away

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SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – An Upstate man, known as being the owner and trainer of a border collie credited as being “the smartest dog in the world,” has died. 

According to a news release from Wofford College officials, Dr. John Pilley died Sunday morning in Spartanburg. He was 89 years old.

Pilley was a professor emeritus of psychology at Wofford, and is credited for his groundbreaking research in canine cognition.

According to his obituary, Pilley showed through his research that dogs are “not only as smart as we think, but they are cognitively capable of so much more.”

Pilley was reportedly diagnosed with leukemia in April.

β€œJohn Pilley’s life was his classroom as he engaged his students through hands-on experiences and shared with them and the community – indeed, the world – his unforgettable ability to connect with people and animals, especially his beloved border collie Chaser,” Dr. Nayef Samhat, president of Wofford College said. “We all learned through him to take nothing for granted, to explore our world and to make connections. The Wofford College campus will miss his extraordinary presence and compassionate spirit and his early morning games and walks with Chaser. We will miss his smile and the joys he and Chaser brought us. We will continue to have her and his wife, Sally, and daughters, Debbie Pilley-Bianchi and Robin Pilley, and his other family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.”

Wofford College’s Provost Dr. Michael J. Sosulski said, “Wofford College has lost an extraordinary teacher, colleague and a true friend in Dr. John Pilley. The hundreds of students who benefited from being in his classroom and lab, the fellow faculty members who had the opportunity to teach alongside him, and even to learn from him, and all the staff and alumni who enjoyed seeing John and Chaser on the pair’s familiar morning jaunts on campus will truly miss him.”

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