Crossing the border illegally and living under a bridge was easy for ‘Dog Whisperer’ César Millán compared to the suicidal hardship he was forced to endure years later.
Millán earned worldwide acclaim after the airing of his TV show ‘The Dog Whisperer with César Millán’ first appeared in 2004 on the National Geographic Channel.
His assertive leadership approach with dogs and rehabilitation of their owners helped Millán – whose nickname was ‘El Perrero’ as a youngster raised in Culiacán, Sinaloa, México, and born in Matzatlán – become the network’s No. 1 weekly show that earned an Emmy nomination. He’s consulted to longtime friend, Jada Pinkett Smith, and numerous other celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey.
Millán has globalized his venture to include several television shows, numerous best-selling books, and a stage show, ‘Cesar Millan Live!’ which he will bring to the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. He stars in ‘César Millán’s Dog Nation’ on the NatGeo Wild network. In his live show, Millán provides crucial information about improving relationship between dogs and humans. He’ll also present live demonstrations with dogs from local rescue operations.
He’s accomplished what few can; a successful empire and a worldwide brand.
In 2009, he accomplished another of his goals in citizenship.
“Becoming a U.S. citizen has been a goal of mine since I first came to this country great country. I have much to thank this country for, and all of the success it has afforded me and my family, and, now I am proud to be a citizen,” Millán said in a statement after swearing his allegiance in a ceremony in southern California.
But his biggest hurdle came in 2010.
It was this year that his beloved pit bull Daddy died. The hurt deepened when his wife of 16 years, Illusión, with whom he has two boys, wanted a divorce. And, his financial share of the business side of his empire, all based on the TV show, wasn’t what he thought.
The weight was too much to bear and Millán blamed himself for everything.
He addressed fans through his website: “I felt defeated. A big sense of guilt and failure. I was at the lowest level I had ever been emotionally and psychologically.”
Millán had attempted suicide overdosing on drugs. His children, César André and Calvin Christian, found him unconscious and called emergency services. Millán awoke days later in a hospital psychiatric ward.
The leader of the pack had fallen.
“At the end of the day, I end up with no money. Zero money … I was broke,’ Millán said during an NBC interview in 2013. “I made a decision and took a whole bunch of pills and tried to kill myself.”
Millán has pushed himself back and again is in control of his life. His younger son, Calvin, is living with him along with Jahira Dar, his new romantic partner.
And he’s back doing what he loves and delivering a calm and assertive leadership role in his own life, not just to dog owners. He’s also smoothing out the rough edges on canines. He’s matured from his life’s struggles. He continually shares his expertise with his audience. He’s a worldwide television star, and even operates the Dog Psychology Centers in Santa Clarita and Florida.
Millán, who had a different occupation in mind as a younger man, has come a long way from homelessness and sleeping under bridges.
“I wanted to become a vet (veterinarian), a profession that is most talked about in my country. I didn’t know dog training,” said Millán in a phone interview last week.
He came to the U.S. by a coyote’s (smuggler) route from Tijuana. He paid him $100 and eventually landed in San Diego. Millán was 21 years old at the time, didn’t speak English and lived on the streets.
He earned a meager living walking dogs, working part time and sleeping in the same buildings the dogs were kept.
He’s well-over 30 years experience and traveled the globe and meeting people, who continue to struggle in other parts of the world, which has helped in his own rebuild.
“I’ve traveled to Asia, Africa, Europe; they see dogs completely different. You need to understand the culture and what influences these people,” he said, “In America, they (dogs) have birthday parties, a bed, even a Christmas present.”
Millán, who has heard criticism over the years for his technique, a technique that stems back three generations from his grandfather’s farm in México, Teodoro and his father, Felipe Millán, didn’t pamper animals.
“A dog is a dog, a chicken is a chicken, and a horse is a horse. It’s like what my grandfather used to say, ‘You just tell them what to do,’” Millán said in a 2008 interview with Vida.
Cesar Millan Live!
Where: Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto
When: Aug. 17
Time: 7 p.m.
Tickets: Call the Gallo Center at (209) 338-2100 or visit galloarts.org