Cesar Millan had a rough couple of years recently, but the trainer who gained fame as the "Dog Whisperer" has licked his wounds and is back with a new show, a new book and on Saturday a live seminar in Tampa where he will share his secrets for being the leader of your own pack. • Millan helmed nine seasons of The Dog Whisperer, which at its peak drew 11 million viewers a week, making him the world's most famous dog trainer, even inspiring a South Park parody titled "Tsst." But he also drew the fangs of some animal behaviorists who find his methods lacking. • In 2010, Millan lost his favorite dog and co-star, Daddy, to cancer. A month later, Millan's wife asked for a divorce after 16 years of marriage. The combined blows knocked him for a loop that he called "the lowest level I had ever been emotionally and psychologically," and he attempted suicide by drug overdose.
To make a comeback, he used his own dog training wisdom of exercise, discipline and affection. He cut ties with the Dog Whisperer producers and has complained of unpaid royalties. He launched a new show, Leader of the Pack, that debuted in January on the Nat Geo Wild cable network. It's a sort of matchmaking show for people and pets where Millan finds "unadoptable" shelter dogs and picks a family that is the best fit — after some coaching from Millan.
In a phone interview from Houston, Millan said his live show is a combination of lectures, demonstrations and videos — including that South Park parody because, "I became the coolest dad ever because I was in South Park."
His live show will also feature some dogs from local shelters that he says he will meet just before the show. This, he says, will demonstrate that it's not just careful editing that allows him to get dogs to behave on TV. He'll be looking for dogs that are nervous, that pull on leashes or are aggressive.
"When I go and grab the dog, it changes," he said. "Even though this human has handled the dog for weeks, they can't change their frame of mind and they see the guy's tense and Cesar is calm."
In the aftermath of his suicide attempt, Millan says the ups and downs of life have become more clear.
"I'm happy I went to rock bottom and now I know the symptoms," Millan said. "As a father I want to see the signs before my kid or anyone around me in my life has any kind of depression, sadness. . . . My faith got stronger.
"You hear this sentence, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' That became real for me. It made me closer to people."