Cesar Millan, Dog Whisperer
Credit: Photograph by James Minchin III
On a cool night in Miami last October, Millan is riding through South Beach with the windows down and a soft Atlantic breeze pouring in. He is dressed, as always, casually but impeccably, in a light blue linen shirt, pressed Ari jeans, and navy K-Swiss sneakers, with a large diamond stud in his left earlobe. At intersections along slow-moving Ocean Boulevard, people on the sidewalks recognize him through the open windows and shout – "I love you, Cesar!" "You changed my life!" Millan waves and grins, the same calm, centered smile he uses to reassure anxious dog owners on TV.

Wherever Millan goes, strangers stop him to tell him how he inspired them to rescue a three-legged rottweiler or a pack of abused pit bulls, or to ask advice about what to do if their dog runs around in circles all day ("Do you own a pair of rollerblades?" he asks. "Yes." "Use them.") or charges visitors at the front door ("He is telling you he owns the place – does he pay the mortgage, or do you?"). Some are looking for more than advice. "My dog is so bad," purred a blonde in a sparkly minidress outside an L.A. Italian restaurant. "Can you help?"

Millan seems almost compulsively driven to help every dog he meets, and every human who asks for advice. Sumner and Emery say that after Dog Whisperer segments finished shooting, Millan would often stick around for hours to offer more guidance. And even now, if he's passing through a neighborhood where he once worked with a dog, he sometimes stops by unannounced to check in. Visiting an overcrowded shelter in Miami to help match prospective families with a suitable dog, Millan fell for a tiny Chihuahua–Jack Russell mix. He's already got five dogs at home and another 20 at the ranch, and said he would have adopted this one if he wasn't scheduled to go on tour in Canada for the next month. "I know you can't save every dog," he says. "But you can totally try to save the dog that's in front of you."

The next night, over a dinner of oysters and mahi-mahi at Joe's Stone Crab, I ask if listening to people's problems all day weighs on him. "No way, man," he says. "I love to solve the mystery of people's lives with their dogs. It's like, bring it on! The way I talk about it with my son Calvin, who is also a great dog whisperer – we call ourselves X-Men. We are here to help! I find euphoria in it."

Millan's divorce was finalized last June (he agreed to pay Ilusion $23,000 a month for life). In January he moved with his girlfriend, Jahira, a curvy 29-year-old Dominican beauty he met when she worked as a salesperson at Dolce & Gabbana, and Calvin, 13, to a new house with five bedrooms and a pool. "I even bought the furniture," Millan says, happily. "I took it all!"

Millan says he now sees the divorce as a wake-up call, but he is still struggling with how to heal his relationship with his older son, Andre, now 18, who refuses to reconcile with his father. "It's frustrating," he says, "and it's really sad. I know how to help a dog. Even if he wants to kill me, I know how to help. But the reality is, if a human doesn't want to have anything to do with you, there is nothing you can do. I can't force communication with my son because he's not ready."

Spending time with Millan, it's clear there's still a bit of the perrero in him – he relates easily to dogs but has a harder time with people when they don't follow the same canine principles. Even with Calvin – whom he describes as "a lot like me: tough but sensitive, busy all the time, very instinctual-driven" – he admits he's struggling to guide him through the transition to his teenage years. "He's in a stage where he feels like his truth is the only thing we should focus on. He's not pack-oriented right now; he's trying to create a world that only he lives in. A dog would never do that shit. A dog would never say, 'I can do this on my own.'?"

I remind Millan about an argument I witnessed between him and his younger brother Erick, CMI's creative director, that started over a scarf Erick borrowed without asking, but devolved into a pretty nasty fight about money and family, mostly provoked by Cesar. Millan shrugs at the memory. "With a dog, I surrender, but not always with a human – I go into fight rather than surrender. I catch myself, but obviously that's a bad habit." He sighs, then smiles. "I have a good habit with the dog, bad habit with the human," he says. "I'm a work in progress."