Animal Trainer, CBS’s ‘Lucky Dog’ Star Brandon McMillan Finding A Mission Greater Than Himself, EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, Highlight Hollywood News

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Brandon McMillan is one of the most popular Saturday morning faces in America. He is also a well-known and sought after dog trainer to many A-list stars and world-famous rap stars and musicians  here in Los Angeles.   They value McMillan’s dedication and his expertise. And each year the handsome star takes his many talents to Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, which will be titled “Great White Serial Killer” this season.  This year’s series is absolutely astonishing and frightening.  But, more on that a little later.  Of course best known as the best dog trainer in the industry, not one who just appears on television, Brandon grew up in a home where his parents were animal trainers, and he is accredited with the industry’s highest honor today.  But his true love, his real passion outside of saving hundreds of dogs in Los Angeles County is his wounded warrior charity, best known as Argus Service Dog Foundation,   “Our heroes sometimes return with catastrophic injuries, and they need our help,” Brandon tells Highlight Hollywood.
 [Below: Brandon with longtime client and Emmy Award-winning TV host Ellen]BrandonMcMillan-Ellen
Brandon-puppies“I train many dogs to become service animals for disabled veterans, mostly in wheelchairs, and our dogs are basically highly trained mobility dogs,” he continued.  That’s the first time I’d ever heard of that, so Brandon explained the desire to help people who need assistance just stepping up on sidewalks, something those of us without handicaps take for granted.  “These are very advanced service dogs.  They can help find sunglasses, they help get the phone for the person they are with and leaning down to pick things up is so difficult, Tommy. Steps can be horrible barriers for these heroes after they lose a limb or limbs.  So, I work hard with my team to get the perfect dog for them.  Not every dog is made to be a service dog, but when they are, they get a full-boot camp.”Brandon-Tim-SandyThey are even trained to pull wheelchairs.  [Above: Brandon with rescue dog Sandy, who he trained specifically for serviceman Tim, who is a Marine Corps Purple Heart recipient. Brandon calls Tim, “A true American hero. They bonded perfectly.”  Heroic Tim and Sandy both   appeared on CBS’s “Lucky Dogs”].   “Brandon tells me that Tim stepped on an IED and lost both legs and is learning to walk again through Sandy.”
Brandon’s really amazing in his training.  You can learn more by watching an episode with a beautiful Golden Retriever, which was adopted by Brandon, yes, from a shelter in L.A here:  http://cbsdreamteam.com/lucky-dog/episodes/sandy/ Sandy was dropped off when his owner died.  But Brandon as usual find  a home for his dogs, only the right home, obviously, but this dog had all the assets that made him such a perfect service dog.  Argus Service Dog Foundation is a non profit organization and you can learn more about it, and hopefully donate as well by going to: http://argusservicedogs.org/
Watching Sandy use the “Brace” command was emotional for me.  Seeing Brandon leave Sandy with his wounded warrior Tim was exhilarating. Brandon not only gave a shelter dog a new life, a new home, but now Tim has a future again.  We really cannot leave our heroes out on the street. These are our bravest and brightest citizens, and watching Brandon leave Sandy for the final time was one of the most moving moments of television.  This is what his Saturday morning show “Lucky Dog” is about.  He’s one of the most charismatic figures on TV today.
Spending time with Brandon is not only a lot of fun, but this guy has a lot of substance, he’s simply a genius, a man who really makes a difference not only in countless lives of dogs,  but also our wounded warriors, our American heroes. He’s made such a positive impact in the lives of so many great Americans.
Watching Brandon spend hours and hours so patiently training these specialized service dogs is something that should be featured on more of his “Lucky Dog” episode.  Heck, I was ready to learn from Brandon after watching and listening to him work for hours with his dogs.   Very few people can actually train an animal properly.  “I trained for movies for years, Tommy.  We never had a bad incident with an animal,” the handsome star and animal training expert confides.  “It’s exciting to see clarity occur in the training process. It’s as if a light bulb comes on for them.”
[Below: Brandon with two gorgeous pooches, who were also rescues.  They were instrumental in CBS finding McMillan and creating such an entertaining and informative show.  “Lucky Dog” is one of CBS Daytime’s best shows.  Last year [2014] the series was Emmy-nominated]
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Trust me, this is not just sit, stand, heel. Brandon’s boot camp is really rigorous, but watching his dogs go through this process is amazing. They just seem to lap it up, no pun intended. They seem just open to the learning process, and it is in no small part to this man’s brilliant expertise.   This man has never had a failure in training animals, because he believes in them, he loves animals and they trust him.  He’s a consummate professional and no one exists like him anywhere. And he’s very picky about new homes for dogs he rescues.  Telling Highlight Hollywood, “Not everyone should  have a dog. It’s that simple. If you are going to neglect your dog or not be consistent, it’s not fair to the animal to be in your care.”
 [Below:  Brandon with a beautiful German Shepherd, who is currently being tested as a potential service dog.  The testing process is arduous, and only a select few are actually chosen]
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Tyler, another brave veteran [pictured below], who Brandon trained the beautiful (red)  Doberman Apollo to become his service dog, also stepped on an IED and Tyler received a Purple Heart for his bravery and service to our nation.  A heartfelt McMillan added, “That’s what the entire foundation is about.  Service dogs for heroes.”
 But in addition to “Lucky Dog,” which airs Saturday mornings on CBS.  Brandon is also involved in Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week.”  When asked if he’s as petrified by sharks as I am. He calmly reminds me, “I can’t be afraid of animals and work with them or around them, Tommy. And much of your fear of sharks is caused by movies such as ‘Jaws,’ which is not a realistic film about sharks, I can assure you,” McMillan reminded me.
 [Below:  First: Brandon posing with beautiful Dobie Apollo, who was the first dog trained under Argus Service Dogs]  and [Second: Brandon and Apollo working with an American hero, who is re-learning how to walk again. This is something McMillan is passionate about.]brandonmcmillan Brandon-Apollo
 The man who goes on African Safaris on an annual basis and who spends most of his time with exotic creatures and dogs, Brandon’s prepared for the work he does on “Shark Week” with ease.  “I am careful, but no, not afraid, there’s no room for fear in this field.”  But he does harbor a great deal of respect for these beautiful and sometimes lethal creatures.Brandon-elephants
[Above:  The star admits to me, that being around large animals, gives Brandon the confidence and dare I say the fearlessness  to work around sharks]
Brandon  and his team are regulated by the American Humane Society, which gives the star the top accreditation and he remains there.  He also remains devoted to making a difference.  100% perfect ratings for years speaks for itself.
[Below:  First Shark image is from “Shark Week” on Discovery, filmed in New Zealand, one of largest Great Whites ever filmed, “He was an 18-footer, 2 tons” which was photographed by Andy Brandy Casagrande] and [second image is of Brandon in the Bahamas filming another series]
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Where “Jaws” had it all wrong, heck, he reminds us, “It’s just a movie.”  “Great White Serial Killer” this season in fact gets it right, and Brandon is always ecstatic being a part of it.  Reminding me I shouldn’t be in such irrational fear of sharks, McMillan says, “Tommy, Great Whites don’t hunt people in a boat the way it appears in films and movies and on TV.  Sharks are opportunistic predators, not demonic creatures.  They are generally below and they notice a dark silhouette, similar to a seal or another animal that is their pray.  Without most humans even realizing they are being monitored by a shark, they make wide circles around you, but under you, normally 30-40 feet away, it picks its right moment before it attacks, which is why most swimmers and surfers are  attacked.  It’s a mathematical equation to them.  The speed of a human in water is similar to that of an injured seal.  See how they can mistake humans for their prey,” Brandon asked.Sure can!  Leave it to Brandon to give me an educated explanation.   But there seems to be one huge exception to the rule in a quaint very secluded region of the California coast. “Surf Beach, it’s where this season’s ‘Shark Week’ on Discover will be set.  We had an extraordinary time and the story is one that is going to get a great deal of attention from the viewers, and I wouldn’t suggest you go there, Tommy.  It seems that during even years, since around 2008, then again in 2010, 2012, 2014, there has been deaths of surfers and swimmers in the water by shark attacks.  Not only is it in even years, and never in odd years, but it occurs around October in each even numbered year.  The irony is someone goes in the water at Surf Beach during June, July, September, they are fine.  But not in October.  It’s an ideal place for sharks, as past the surf break it drastically drops and is perfect hunting grounds for a Great White.  Now, normally 99 percent of shark attacks are just that, investigatory bites, a little nibble, the shark is seeing if you are a perfect prey or not.  But in this section of the coast, and in even years, in October, it has been deadly for many people.”Brandon added, “We’ll be explaining and telling the whole story.  I’m a surfer of course, and we are working with one of the top experts in the shark world.  In 2012’s attack, there’s a tooth fragment that was found.  The victim of course did not survive, but there can be DNA testing on this tooth to see if it’s the same shark connected to the other attacks.”
 [Below: Handsome Brandon on site in Guadalupe (hey, it’s selfie time) while filming “Shark Week’s ” sequel titled “Great White Serial Killer, to air later this year]
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Since I had this man’s attention and expertise for a while, I asked if shark’s teeth fall out if that’s it for them. “No, they have a row of teeth behind their teeth.  So, when one is extracted from an attack or some other reason, another moves in its place,” Brandon concluded.  This year’s “Shark Week” is titled “Great White Serial Killer,” it is a sequel to the first one, which was record-making for the Discovery Channel.  Part one with Brandon McMillan was the highest rated Wednesday night “Shark Week” in the cable network’s history.  This one I can assure you will eclipse part one and blow the first one away.
“When I am around sharks, I feel very peaceful.  I don’t look at them as  ferocious  animals, I see it as a peaceful one,” Brandon tells us.
Please go to the Brandon’s site and learn more about “Great White Serial Killer,” on Discovery Channel, more about CBS’s hit Saturday morning award-winning and Emmy-nominated TVseries “Lucky Dog,” which is one of the best shows on air, and please go and learn more about his foundation and dedicated work to finding and training the right dogs to be a life partner for wounded warriors.  Brandon is one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met.  He’s a genius, and he’s a star, even though he doesn’t seem himself that way.  Check out Brandon’s official site.
 Again, “Lucky Dog” airs on Saturday mornings on CBS.  Please check your local listings.  It’s a show you don’t want to miss.
Better follow us on Facebook, as we’re going to be doing more with Brandon in the future, if he’ll let us tag along!
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[Above:  The handsome acclaimed dog trainer doesn’t only tackle sharks, he is a complete dog lover, who rescued this lucky dog from an L.A. County shelter; Photo Courtesy: Jamie Klein Photography]
Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: Lucky Dog; Brandon’s Private Collection
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