Tales from the Set - Part 1: Dog Whisperer Memories
By Todd Henderson
From Production Assistant to Producer
I am a lucky man. It’s a feeling I have had day in and day out for the past 6 years since April of 2006 when I first stepped into the offices of Dog Whisperer to interview for a Production Assistant position on a TV show I had only heard of in passing. I had been in LA for less than a week after making the cross country journey from Philadelphia with a couple of like-minded buddies; all of us determined to “make it” in Tinsletown. A friend of mine from back East had been working as the receptionist at the production company that produced Dog Whisperer and told me, “they’re looking for someone like you; want me to set up an interview?” I, of course, had no idea how landing a job working with dogs would shape the rest of my life in so many wonderful ways.
I’m writing this from Madrid, Spain, where I am currently producing Cesar’s new TV show, Leader of the Pack. Anyone in the entertainment industry knows how fortunate it is to have steady work. To be able to work for 6 years in various avenues in the Cesar Millan world and on Dog Whisperer, a production of such quality and integrity (especially within the reality tv world) is an absolute blessing.
Working with Cesar
People ask me all the time, “what’s Cesar really like?” I am always proud to report that Cesar is the real deal, true blue; what you see on TV is what you get in person. Where I’m from (Bruce Springsteen country), when you call someone “boss,” it’s a high compliment that person has earned, even though they don’t owe it to you. It means they are a natural pack leader, a person of integrity and great instincts, someone who you can trust in, believe in, and know they are always looking out for their “pack.” Well I am proud to call Cesar “boss” because he is this kind of leader. We travel quite a lot these days and he never fails to ask me each day how my wife and kids are. He wants to know about them and their lives and respects how difficult it is to be away from them. That means quite a lot as it is so hard to be away from them.
At a recent CESAR LIVE show of his in Gothenberg, Sweden, a fan asked me to sign their book by writing the best thing I’ve learned from Cesar. I wrote, “always be aware of your energy, it’s how you leave a positive impact on your world and the people around you. This is one small way to help make the world a better place each day.” Before working with Cesar I never thought about energy except in the physical sense, like “I just have no energy today.” But by becoming aware of your energy and focusing it in a calm and assertive manner, it helps better everything in your life, from communication with your friends, family, and colleagues, to the changes you can make in the world around you. There is a line in the film, “The Departed”, where Jack Nicholson says “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.” Nicholson’s character is a bad guy of course, but if you shift that line of thinking to a positive connotation, it reflects a mindset that allows you to really make a difference in ways you could never imagine.
I grew up with sweet, fat beagles so I really didn’t know much about problematic dog behavior. In my neighborhood there was an aggressive dog and you always did your best to avoid him. I think about that aggressive dog sometimes and how I would love to meet him nowadays and help fulfill his needs (in his case it would have involved lots of exercise and discipline.) I own three dogs (one of which came from the Dog Whisperer) and I’m so proud of them and how well trained they are because I know what they need each day and am able to fulfill this because of what I’ve learned from Cesar.
One other thing that has always impressed me about Cesar is how he reacts to his critics. These people have said some pretty harsh things about him. It offends me because I know how dedicated he is to working with dogs and also how effective he is with them. Each time we let him know that someone has said something negative, he remains so cool headed and only wishes to speak with this person – to explain his point of view and to understand their opinion better. How he does this, I’ll never know, but it’s another example of the strength of his character and leadership. He’s the boss and I’m lucky to know and work with him.