Dog Whisperer reveals suicide attempt, turnaround

Vera H-C Chan
Senior Editor, Special Projects
omg! TV

Cesar Millan may have been in tune with pup psychology, but the famed dog whisperer suffered a breakdown that led to an attempted suicide back in May 2010.

Two years later, the animal expert has finalized his divorce and ended his National Geographic show "Dog Whisperer," but he's talking about being on the upswing in his documentary, "Cesar Millan: The Real Story."

His 2010 overdose had been precipitated by several stressors, among them the death of his pit-bull Daddy, then his wife Ulsion's plans to leave him. Both had been a part of his life for 16 years (Daddy had originally belonged to rapper Redman). The pressure of their loss led him to abusing the antidepressants.

News of a suicide attempt should come as a shock to any fan ("Dog Whisperer" aired in 110 countries with 38 million viewers), given Millan's constant urging for pet owners to be more attuned not just with their dog's psychology, but their own behavior. He did write to his fans about his depression on his website, the Associated Press reported, but didn't mention his overdose at the time.

Bob Anniello, president of Millan's company CMI, has written about Millan's tough period, although he too didn't mention a suicide attempt.

In March 2010, just a few weeks after Daddy passed away, Cesar left for a LIVE tour across the United Kingdom. He was going to be gone for almost six weeks — the longest Cesar had been away from his family, ever. He was hesitant and uneasy about leaving, but his family had agreed to meet him near the end of the tour. About ten days into the trip, Cesar's wife called and asked for a divorce. (Tales from the Set, Part 4)

Millan relieved his stress by working out at the gym, losing 25 pounds in two weeks. The pet expert retreated to his own Dog Psychology Center and decided to pursue a new series focused on abandoned dogs. "He too felt deeply abandoned and this show needed to prove to people that abandoned dogs deserved a second chance," Anniello wrote. "He wanted to erase the stigma that they were 'damaged' and unfit. Thus, Leader of the Pack was born and, in six months, Cesar transformed himself from the Dog Whisperer to The Pack Leader."

Now Millan not only has a documentary (airing Nov. 25 on Nat Geo Wild) and a new show (debuting Jan. 5, same channel), he already spilled the beans about plans to propose to his new partner, Jahira Dar.

Notably, had Millan succeeded in ending his life in 2010, a fan would never have had a chance to thank him. In March 2011, Anniello recounted, a man attended an autograph signing and told Millan, "I want you to know I have AIDS and you saved my life."