James Giuliani used to be a street enforcer for the Mafia and spent 20 years running in circles with John Gotti before a chance encounter with a dog in need inspired him to turn his life around.
"When you're growing up in my neighborhood, you went out and made your own fun," James says. "My fun was hanging out on the streets. You start messing around with the drugs and see the street guys making money, and you're like, 'Wow.'" During his time in the Mafia, James says he spent "20 years beating the hell out of myself."
Two events saved the former gangster's life: meeting the right girl, and meeting the right dog. While he and his girlfriend (now his wife) were on a coffee date, the pair spotted what looked like an old carpet on the side of the road. It turned out to be an abused puppy. "It had maggots on it," he says; "it was dying."
James took in the dog, which he named Bruno, and brought the pup back to health. Later, when Bruno passed away from lymphoma, James was devastated. But the time he spent with the pup affected him in a major way. "It's the biggest way I've ever connected with anything in my life," he says. "He saved me by dying. He made me want to do something unselfish for once in my life."
Today, James and his wife dedicate themselves to rescuing abused and abandoned animals throughout Brooklyn, New York. The couple also runs a grooming parlor called The Diamond Collar, also the name of the OWN reality show that chronicles their work with animals in need.
To learn more about James's work, and to find out which breeds need to be rescued the most, watch this episode of "Daily Shot."