Don’t call him the Dog Whisperer.
Cesar Millan may have gained fame for a TV series of the same name that lasted nine seasons, but he’s far from a one-trick canine.
“ ‘Whisperer’ is a beautiful title, but if I stay in that frame, people think I’m only training dogs,” he said in a telephone interview from New York.
When Millan comes to Davenport this week as the latest installment of the Gilda’s Club Quad-Cities’ “Intimate Conversations” series, he will talk about how dogs need humans and vice versa. Of particular interest to him is how important dogs are to human health, particularly among cancer patients.
“They can be there in hospitals during painful situations,” he said. “We can hide feeling bad about people, but dogs don’t feel bad about you, they just want to be with you regardless of how you are. That gives a lot of people hope.”
Humans can’t duplicate the energy and karma of a dog. “They don’t focus on what’s wrong with you. They’re focused on ‘How can I help you arrive to this happy state?’ ” Millan said. Dogs, he added, provide a feeling that can’t be matched by medication or doctors, and “nobody can imitate that ability.
“In a hospital, people are in a more relaxed state, a more calm state. It’s easier for a dog to work in that situation,’ he added. “If you get out of the hospital, you’re more excited, more tense, more angry and more frustrated and more anxious.”
Millan, 43, lives in the Studio City area of Los Angeles. He has returned to series TV with “Leader of the Pack,” which debuted in January on the Nat Geo WILD, or NGW, cable channel. In the show, he employs his “exercise, discipline and affection” methods to rescue and rehabilitate unwanted dogs and then matches them with deserving families.
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“Leader of the Pack,” he said, came about after some of the “dark moments” in his life over the past few years. During that time, Millan said he learned that 600 million dogs are put to death each year, including 4 million to 5 million in the United States.
“I felt the responsibility of bringing awareness to the world,” he said. “What, as a world, are we going to do to save the lives of dogs? We’ve become a disposable society, a disposable world. We say we love dogs, but look at the number we’re killing every year.”
Millan said he’s always had the ability to feel the needs of all animals since growing up on his grandfather’s farm in Mexico. After illegally immigrating to the United States at the age of 21, he went to work in Los Angeles as a dog walker and groomer. A story in the Los Angeles Times that showed him walking 30 to 40 dogs at a time got him noticed by celebrities (Oprah Winfrey, Nicolas Cage and Jada Pinkett-Smith, among others) and the National Geographic cable channel.
Millan says he finds parallels with his work and the late founder of Apple, Steve Jobs.
“He connected the world through a computer. I do it with a dog,” Millan said. “He represents technology, I represent instincts. To me, the vehicle is a dog.”