McMillan has thought about getting the newer Grand Cherokee. “They made minor tweaks to make it better. Maybe that’s my next one,” he says. “Although I will say, those Toyota Tundras are looking pretty sexy right now. They’re just known for their reputation. They have to be the most reliable car on the planet.”
McMillan’s decision to buy the Jeep represented a conscious choice to support the American auto industry. “I do like classic American cars, and since I wouldn’t drive one every day, why not get just a modern American car?” he says.
The Jeep isn’t a loaded model. The SUV has power windows and a CD player, and that’s about it, McMillan says.
“It’s a dog car at the end of the day, and when you have a dog car, you don’t want it too nice. You don’t want it too fancy because the dogs will make sure that it’s not nice and fancy by the time they’re done with it,” he says.
He’s run errands in the past and left dogs inside for a few minutes with the car running and the AC on. When he came back, they’ve made a mess. “If you’ve got a $100,000 BMW and you put a bunch of dogs in it, I don’t think so,” he says, laughing.
McMillan adds that he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on a car that has all the bells and whistles. “To me, a car [should be] like an old pair of shoes. Yeah, they’re not the prettiest things, but they’re so comfortable,” he says.
Car he learned to drive in
McMillan learned to drive in an early 1980s Toyota. “It was already 15 to 20 years past its prime, but then again, it’s a Toyota so it was still running fine,” he says. “It had four different wheels, it was rusted, I couldn’t even tell you the paint color because it didn’t have an actual color. It was a stick shift, too, so to this day I still know how to drive a stick because of that.”
He taught himself how to drive. “Driving is not that difficult. My mother taught me a few things and driving a stick. I’d be a liar to say I didn’t steal my parents’ car a couple times when I was a kid just to go up the street and back,” he says. “What I’ve learned is some people have a natural ability to drive well. I knew how to drive really well from day one. It wasn’t much of a learning curve for me. I failed the written test twice, but the driving test was easy.”
The windshield wiper on the old Toyota didn’t work, so when it rained he’d wear a diving mask and snorkel and stick his head out the window.
McMillan lived in Hawaii when he was a teenager and was able to get his license at 15. “Learning to drive in Hawaii is fun because you learn to drive on the roads and off the roads. Off-road driving in Hawaii is awesome,” he says.
McMillan saved $1,500 to buy the Toyota. “It had no accessories, it had no radio, it had no windshield wipers, all the tires were pretty much bald, but it ran. And I ran that thing into the ground!” he says. “And it was still running after I ran it into the ground. It just wanted to live.”
McMillan made money from jobs like mowing neighbors’ lawns and walking and training dogs, and he saved his lunch money for five years. “I would get $2 a day for lunch, and I would put the money under my carpet every single day, and I would eat the free lunch at school, which was a peanut butter and jelly and a milk,” he says. “I was able to acquire enough money, and when you’re in your teenage years, you think $1,000 is like a million.”
McMillan doesn’t have his dream car yet, since he used money he’s made to buy a ranch. “My ultimate dream with a car is to get a 1966 Chevelle convertible, midnight blue. That right there, in my opinion, is a dream car. The bottom line is, the older that car gets, the better it gets,” he says. “These new cars, they’re built to last three to five years. It’s no fluke that these 1960s hot rod classics get better over time, and the rarer they get, the more valuable they get. I don’t see a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee becoming a classic like a ’66 Chevelle.”
He plans to get this dream car in the next couple of years. “They’re hard to come by, though; they really are,” he says.
Favorite road trip
McMillan’s favorite road trip memory was the time he drove to Oregon on the Pacific Coast Highway over two days. “We did PCH the entire time. What gorgeous scenery that is,” he says. “You’ve got places in Central and Northern California, where, especially [in] Northern California near Oregon, the PCH turns into sheer cliffs. You’re riding pretty much over the ocean. It’s awesome.”
He took that drive when he was filming Great White Serial Killer for Discovery’s Shark Week in Northern California and Oregon. But McMillan also loves Mulholland Drive.
“This is my favorite driving moment ever—about 10 years ago I had a client, very wealthy guy,” McMillan says. “He called me up and said, ‘I hear you’re a dog trainer. Can you get to my house tomorrow, 12 o’clock?'”
It turns out the client’s dog was scared of being in the car. The dog would shake and panic and drool with anxiety the whole time. So McMillan said the solution, besides opening the window, was to drive the dog in the car a lot. The client didn’t have time to do that, so it was up to McMillan.
“He opens his garage, he has a collection of supercars—Ferraris, Lambos, Bentleys,” McMillan says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, which one am I training him to?’ He goes, ‘All of them, pal. ‘”
McMillan did that for six weeks. “He put me on his insurance for every single one of these cars. I would take these $350,000 sports cars out. Of course, I had a dog in there, but I’d always bring the dog back and go for a quick little run myself,” he says with a chuckle.
He drove the dog all along Mulholland. “There is something to be said about these sports cars. When you pay that much for them, you see them hug the road much more than a Jeep Cherokee,” he says. “I had never been in a Ferrari in my life and [heard] all this hype. Then you drive one one day, [and] you’re like, ‘Wow, it’s all it’s cracked up to be and more. ‘”
It turned out the dog was afraid of getting carsick, and the remedy was a little booster seat so he could see out the window, as well as opening the window for fresh air.
“Problem was solved. Of course I had to drive the dogs plenty of times to let him know he wasn’t going to get sick,” he says.
Lucky Dog on CBS
Each week, viewers watch McMillan work with dogs that were going to be euthanized. He prepares the dogs for new owners who are well matched to them.
“So I save their life, bring them back to my ranch. I rehabilitate them [and] train them tailor made to the family that I’m going to give them to,” he says. “It’s a long journey. I’m training service dogs and therapy dogs.”
It takes weeks or sometimes—in the case of service dogs—months to train them. And there are times when McMillan finds it hard to let a dog go.
“There’s been a few in the past, especially the service dogs, because the longer I have the dog, the harder it is to get rid of them,” he says. “If I have them for weeks, it’s not that difficult to release them, but if I have them for six or eight months, it’s tough, because they feel like a family member.”
Lucky Dog airs weekends on CBS. McMillan is also the author of the book Lucky Dog Lessons, has a nonprofit, and offers training products. For more information, visit canineminded.com.
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