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Cesar Millan: "I'm not cruel to animals"

Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan on being homeless in LA, his kids' star-filled school, and his controversial training methods

Cesar Millan with dogs

I’m really happy to be talking to The Big Issue because at one time I was homeless. When I arrived to America I was an illegal alien. My homes were under the freeways in San Diego. The good thing is, in the United States, with a dollar you can buy two hotdogs. I remember, with $1.29, I can buy a cup that you can refill, so I can go to 7-11 or ampm [chain convenience stores] and refill it. I lived with a dollar a day for two months.

Twenty-two years later, my week is completely different. I’m an early person, so 5am I’m up and my first thing is to take the dogs for a nice walk. We have six dogs. My favourite place to walk is Runyon Canyon, across from my house. We’re out for an hour and then I get my coffee.

After that, I bring the pack back and go to the gym. Then I have breakfast with [son] Calvin. I have two sons: one lives with his mom and one with me. In LA everything takes a long time, so we leave at 8am to get Calvin to school by nine. At the school, it’s goodbye and a hug, and I come back to the house. Then I pick up the dogs and go to the ranch to be with the rest of the pack.

The ranch is 42 acres; I managed to buy my own mountain. I designed it after Runyon Canyon. When I worked there, just walking dogs, I always said, I wish I could buy this place. We have a horse, a llama… I’m building the ranch bit by bit – we already have a sheep-herding arena and a Chinese garden. It’s beautiful. Going there is my treat.

I return home in time for Calvin coming back so I can spend time with him. Calvin is eight and he goes to NVLA [New Village Leadership Academy, a private school in California funded by Will Smith]. The Jackson kids go there, Jaden Smith [Will’s son] goes there. The school was created for parents who have that lifestyle. So when I go away, a teacher travels with us. Calvin always travels with me when I’m on tour and doing the TV show [The Dog Whisperer]. I like to have my dogs and kids around. By about 9pm, we’re all asleep. That’s part of the discipline.

At the weekend I love to watch The Voice. You know, I wanted to be a singer but I suck at it, so I decided to walk dogs. Music is part of the Latino culture – it doesn’t cost anything but it brings happiness.

I had some complaints earlier this week when I was on Alan Titchmarsh [campaigners tweeted to complain about Millan’s ‘thuggish’ training methods before his appearance on The Alan Titchmarsh Show]. Everyone has people that don’t agree with them – Oprah has it, the Dalai Lama, the president, the Queen. I respectfully disagree with the comments –  I am not cruel to animals. Many times, when a dog comes to me, I am the last resort. It’s between me and euthanisation. I rehabilitate them.

Cesar Millan’s Trust Your Instincts UK tour runs from April 12-28, 2013. cesarmillanlive.com

Illustration: Matt Hollings

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