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A One-on-One with The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan

Not many world-famous celebrities wouldauthor a book and invite contributions from their more outspoken critics to includein the manuscript. But Cesar Millan is not just...

Julia Szabo  |  Mar 8th 2011


Not many world-famous celebrities wouldauthor a book and invite contributions from their more outspoken critics to includein the manuscript. But Cesar Millan is not just any world-famous celebrity. He’s The Dog Whisperer.

Cesar has done more to help rehabilitate the reputation of my favorite dog breed – the globally feared and reviled pit bull – than anyone else in contemporary K9 culture. Thanks to him, many wonderful people have opened their hearts and homes to pit bulls in need. And like the maligned dogs he lives with and learns from,Cesar bravely faces downhate with love.

Cesar has millions of admirers -plus his share of detractors. But he doesn’t let that faze him in his mission to help dogs. Instead, he’s happy to share the spotlight with his contrary colleagues. Bydoing so, he proves that there’s more than one way to work with a dog so that both human and K9 get the maximum benefit from the relationship.

His latest book -“Cesar’s Rules: Your Way To Train a Well-Behaved Dog”- generously and graciously includes input from dog trainers who’ve vociferously critiqued his training m.o. With impressive poise, Cesar deftly incorporates their methods with his owntocreate a dog training treatise that offers something for everybody.

Yesterday,the star trainer-author-phenomenon happened to be in my hometown, New York City, multitasking to promote his new book and his favorite home cleaning product, the Swiffer, in time for spring cleaning season. Although I’ve seenCesar in person and contributed to his excellent magazine, Cesar’s Way, I’d never had the pleasure of sitting down with him for a chat before.

In person, The Dog Whisperer is even more charismaticthan he appears on TV. He’s at once analytical and spiritual – a powerful combination. Interestingly, his physical proportions – a big head on a buff,compact body – are comparable to a pit bull’s, which issomething I never realized watching him on TV! I guess we humans really do come to resemble the dogs we love.

With equal seriousness and respect,Cesar quotes Gandhi (“The greatness of a nation and its moralprogress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”) and reminisces about his beloved dog Daddy, the ambassador pit bull who was hismaster’swise teacher, and whorecently passed away.

Now, that’s what I call a real Dogster.

Daddy’s heir, the ambassador pit Junior, didn’t accompany Cesar on this trip. But when they do travel together, Junior – a therapy dog – flies right by Cesar’s side in the aircraft cabin, never in cargo. “He prefers to fly privately,” Cesar says with a laugh. And who wouldn’t?

Junior and Daddywereas close as two dogs could be – “Daddy raised Junior with me,” Cesar says – but they have their differences just as any two individuals do. “Daddy didn’t like the water, but Junior loves togo diving!” Cesar reveals. He relates these fun facts the wayany Dogsterwould show off dog photos: with loving pride and enthusiasm.

Upon learning that Cesar is a Virgo, I pointed out a few factoids about dog owners born under this zodiac sign (read more about Virgo and dogs here).He wasn’t at all surprised to hear that Virgos make extremely devoted dog lovers. He certainly fits the Virgo profile: An animal lover who demonstrates great compassion for hard-luckshelter dogs, Cesar promotes dog adoption and rescue at every opportunity.

An Earth sign,Virgo loves exercising and spending quality time out in nature with dogs – and Cesar is no exception, so his dogs benefit from his profound love of fitness andthe great outdoors. A dedicated family man, he also makesan extra effort on the K9 health front, feeding his dogs a premium diet andexploring alternative therapies such as veterinary acupuncture, to helphis four-footed family membersachieve maximum wellness and longevity. That’s a Virgo trait too.

Then there’s the characteristic of Virgo that’s often the butt of jokes: their fastidious focus on cleanliness. Cesar could relate to that – and, true to form, he put a positive spin onthe Virgo’s neatnikrep: “We’re the best people to clean in the world!” he declared with a smile. “And we’re very specific about how we clean, and what we clean with.”

It’s not often one meetssomeone famous withoutfeeling let down by the chasm between their public and private personae. Meeting the Dog Whisperer – smart, funny, hip, humane, and humble – was a rare treat indeed.