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Bitten by tragedy, Cesar Millan returns wiser as 'Leader of the Pack'

By Randee Dawn, Glen Dacy and Jamie Farnsworth
Rock Center

It's almost impossible to imagine Cesar Millan without his dogs.  For nine seasons, he starred as "Dog Whisperer"  on The National Geographic Channel. He built an empire working with the most challenging of canines -- but as he told "Rock Center's" Kate Snow recently, what he was less proficient with was understanding the human species.

Millan's 43-acre ranch, his "Dog Psychology Center,” is evidence that the Mexican immigrant, who sneaked over the border and once slept under a highway overpass, has come a long way. He's a U.S. citizen now, working on his new series "Cesar Millan's Leader of the Pack," and has two teenage sons. As many as 11 million people per week tuned in to watch him  working with  dogs that many owners would want to give away on "Dog Whisperer."

But three years ago, his life started to fall apart: His beloved pit bull Daddy died, days later his wife of 16 years phoned to tell him she wanted a divorce, and his relationship with his two sons soured as they blamed him for the divorce.  And Millan discovered his inattention to his business had left him without a cent.

"It's like, 'OK, I'm a failure. The reason why this has happened is because of me,'" he told Snow in an interview airing Friday, June 14 at 10pm/9CDT on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams. 

WATCH: Cesar Millan: 'I took a whole bunch of pills' and wanted to die

The TV star who seemed to be at the top of the world decided to take his own life and swallowed "a whole bunch of pills." His children called paramedics, who saved his life. And when he came to his senses in a psychiatric hospital, Millan discovered he was surrounded by patients who were fans, and who innately trusted him thanks to his work with animals.

"That gave me -- a sense of belonging," he said. "I got a sense of purpose. I like to have a purpose in life."

And that signaled a huge turnaround for Millan, who quit "Dog Whisperer" last year and started a new show "Cesar Millan's  Leader of the Pack." Now, he has a much better grip on his own business situation and has mended his relationship with his children.

And so, Cesar Millan  is on a long walk back --  but  this time, more reflective, and wiser.

"What makes you wise in life is not the successes," he said. "It's when you go down and come back."

Encore airings of "Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan" and "Cesar Millan’s Leader of the Pack" can be seen on Nat Geo WILD. For more information, visit www.natgeowild.com or www.cesarsway.com.

Editor’s Note: Kate Snow’s full report on Cesar Millan airs Friday, June 14, at 10 p.m./9 CDT on NBC’s "Rock Center with Brian Williams."