Rock Center   |  June 14, 2013

Bitten by tragedy, Cesar Millan returns wiser

Millions know Cesar Millan as the star of the hit TV show "The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan." He created an empire training the unruly dogs most people avoid. What many do not know is how Millan almost lost everything and his struggle to rebuild his life. Rock Center’s Kate Snow reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> along at exactly the right time in terms of television. it was really the dawn of reality television , and he had a special talent. he could make problem dogs actually obey. what he did and how he did it made him a well-man and made him well-known. we only saw the tv show version. we couldn't see what was going on in his personal life and the steep drop he was going through. tonight he opens up about that and the rebuilding process with our own kate snow .

>>> no dog can take that place just yet.

>> when you go out for a walk with cesar millan at his ranch in the mountains outside l.a., cesar and his pack take you to the top of his world.

>> the top of the mountain is mine.

>> this 43-acre ranch is his dog psychology center, and the symbol of his international success. this is a view. he was the star of the hit tv show "the dog whisperer with cesar millan " which ran for nine seasons on national geographic channel . [ barking ]

>> when good dogs go bad --

>> 11 million people a week tuned in to see him tame the kind of dogs most people avoid. they bought his best-selling books, dog products, and sold out his live stage shows.

>> welcome cesar millan ! [ applause ]

>> he specialized in training the toughest dogs with his own trademark philosophy that he is the leader of his pack. have these dogs all bitten people?

>> yeah.

>> what was that sound for? that sss, you're famous for that.

>> the sound means whatever you're doing, it's unwanted now. sss. see, that's the touch.

>> sss, hey.

>> in a sign of his pop culture status, he made it on to " south park ."

>> sss.

>> quit it!

>> his was the classic american success story. a poor kid from mexico who crossed the border illegally and slept under a highway overpass. he married and had two children and began his career walking unruly dogs in bad neighborhoods. when people saw you in los angeles walking the pack and doing what you do, were they scared of you?

>> yeah. it's a mexican with a pack of dogs, yeah.

>> on of t, he seemed in control of his pack and his life. he was proud to become a u.s. citizen .

>> i train people. i wanted to have a place only for him.

>> most people don't know what happened to cesar millan off camera at the height of his popularity. he almost lost everything.

>> come on.

>> it started three years ago when the dog who'd been at his side season after season, a pit bull named daddy, died. was he like an extension of you?

>> no, he was better than me. way better. yeah, way better.

>> still reeling from that loss, days later cesar was in england on tour when the phone rang. it was his wife of 16 years.

>> i get a call, you know. i'm getting a divorce.

>> your wife just calls and says, "i want a divorce"?

>> yeah.

>> did she say why?

>> well, you know, for the sake of the kids, i think it's better not to touch that point so much.

>> cesar and his ex-wife have agreed not to talk publicly about the divorce which damaged his relationship with his boys. all he had was his work, and there were problems there, too. cesar claims he never paid much attention to the business side of his empire. turned out this he actually owned very little of it. not even the name of his own tv show .

>> i am the dog whisperer .

>> the production company says he was paid more than $10 million for his work in the midst of a legal battle, cesar 's lawyer says the company still owes him millions.

>> at the end of the day , i end up with no money.

>> what do you mean you end up with no money?

>> right. zero money.

>> you were broke.

>> i was broke.

>> for the first time in his life, cesar millan felt like he'd lost control .

>> like, okay, i'm a failure. the owen this has happened is because of me.

>> you got to a point where you didn't think it was worth living.

>> no. so i -- i just made a decision and took a whole bunch of pills and tried to kill myself.

>> did you really want to die?

>> yeah.

>> he mixed several bottles of pills.

>> they called the paramedics.

>> who called the pair med sonics>> the kids.

>> did your kids find you?

>> my kids found me. yeah.

>> your boys?

>> yeah. i ran to the gate saying -- i say, "take me to the ranch. i want to die with daddy."

>> when cesar woke up in a psychiatric hospital , he found himself in a surreal situation, surrounded by fans.

>> all the patients there knew me, and they didn't trust the psychologists but they trusted me. so they wanted cesar to be n their consultations, you know. so i became their pack leader. so i --

>> at the hospital?

>> at the hospital. with the patients. right? so that's why i say, okay, so i can help people.

>> you got your self-esteem back, it sounds like.

>> i have a sense of purpose, right? i like to have a purpose in life. i want to do something. i want to help. that's -- that's what drives me.

>> he vowed to focus on his relationships with humans, not just dogs.

>> with dogs i have all the empathy and compassion and calmness and patience that it is because i know what they want. sometimes people don't know what they want.

>> he's mended things with his boys. the youngest, calvin, lives with cesar now and has a new partner, a girlfriend, jahida.

>> cesar millan is the best man for the challenge.

>> last year, cesar quit the " dog whisperer " and created " cesar millan 's leader of the pack " on nag geo wild. a program he controls and plans to grow around the world.

>> do you have what it takes to be the leader of the pack ?

>> this program seems to showcase a gentler cesar millan .

>> we're going to find you a new home.

>> it is in contrast to the old cesar , criticized by animal behaviorists for being too aggressive. do you ever feel badly about doing something to a dog?

>> no. no, no, no. i'm not doing it to hurt him. it's not my intention. it's not the whole essence of what i do. i'm going to show you what i'm going to build, a waterfall.

>> a watertall? the essence of what he does, he says, is connecting the world through dogs.

>> i'm back to focus. i'm back to a new dream, you know. so i'm inspired. i'm motivated.

>> and along with his motivation, a new perspective.

>> what makes you wise in life is not the successes. it's when you go down and come back.

>> kate snow on the story of cesar millan from santa clarita , california, tonight.