Just past 9 a.m., Grace stepped out of a limo and onto the grass of the dog treatment facility. The California sunshine greeted her. A training class with about 25 students and dogs from various countries – like Australia and Chile – was about to begin. Two Chihuahuas and a small fluffy dog surrounded Grace. The three were part of renowned dog behaviorist Cesar Millan’s personal “pack.” And, Millan was the reason Grace was there.
Ever since she can remember, Grace has wanted to work with animals, specifically dogs. The 17-year-old spends time agility training her American Bulldog on her family’s sprawling 40-acre wooded homestead in a quaint Michigan town. For 8 years, Grace has watched and learned techniques from Cesar Millan, renowned dog behaviorist and star of the hit television series “Cesar 911,” which recently completed its first season, on NatGeo WILD, and was picked up for a second.
A year prior, a social worker referred Grace to Make-A-Wish Michigan after she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Grace said her wish choice was “automatic.” Her future plans have always included working with animals, possibly as a veterinary technician.
“I knew as soon as they told me I was eligible for this that this is what I wanted to do,” Grace said. “I’ve been studying and researching his philosophy since I was 9 or 10 years old, and this is the coolest thing ever to be here and learn more from him.”
On this sunny day, Grace greeted Cesar as he introduced his personal “pack,” Taco, Coco and Mr. Benson – all named by Cesar’s 15-year-old son. He went on to explain that roughly 20 – 30 dogs live at the Dog Psychology Center, which is a 43-acre treatment facility that he founded.
The duo then led the first event of the day, the morning Pack Walk. Cesar handed a dog, Lola, to Grace for the walk. As the group walked, Cesar took notice of Grace’s confidence and passed over the leashes of five more dogs. Cesar offered her a few suggestions on leading the pack, but then Grace was on her own – proudly leading a pack of six dogs.
Back at the center, Cesar taught the class and then the group broke for lunch, which featured dog-shaped cookies for dessert. After lunch, Grace joined Cesar on a stone bench under a tree. The two laughed and shared a casual conversation.
“I will have to come back when it’s all finished,” Grace said about the center to Cesar.
“Yes, you have to so you can run it, because I want to retire,” Cesar joked.
For Grace, this was the “coolest part” – just sitting and talking with Cesar.
Cesar, a self-taught dog training expert, is widely known for his television series Dog Whisperer, which was broadcast in more than 80 countries from 2004 – 2012. He is the author of several books, which became New York Times best sellers and currently stars in “Cesar 911.”
Link to video of Cesar and Grace, click here.