James Giuliani - Animal Rescuer | Young Talent
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07

James Giuliani

Animal Rescuer

“When people say, ‘What do you do for a living?’ I say, ‘I manage the Diamond Collar, a grooming dog center in Brooklyn, New York.’ But what do I do all day? I rescue animals. I get a lot of calls every week to run out and grab whatever: possums, raccoons, turtles, dogs and cats.

“I see myself in those animals every day, because I was those animals. Before I was 35, my life was rough, I was robbing and stealing. I was sniffing 500 dollars of cocaine a week, drinking every day – no tolerance for anything. I was dead, a train doing 120mph at a brick wall, life was hard.

“As a [Gambino family] enforcer, you’re there for your group. If somebody needs to be knocked out, you’re willing to do it. If someone owes money, you’re willing to go get that money. If someone’s car needs to be burned, you’re willing to do it – I was willing to do anything for the crew.

“I had every conviction besides murder; gun charges, kidnapping, assault, possession, dealing, conspiracy charges for murder.”

“I had every conviction besides murder; gun charges, kidnapping, assault, possession, dealing, conspiracy charges for murder. People didn’t want me around, I was a dark person, but I didn’t want to change. When I met my wife Lena, I moved to Brooklyn – it was miles away from my neighbourhood but I started to do the same thing there; selling cocaine and illegal cigarettes, doing everything. I wasn’t going to stop, and no one was going to stop me. My mother begged me on her dying death bed, ‘Please stop,’ and I wouldn’t do it. If I wouldn’t do it for my mother, I wouldn’t do it for anyone.

“Brother, you will never know it until it hits you. A little dying dog on the street, that’s what made me decide to stop.

“People say to me, ‘James, Dogfather, I am trying to get clean, how did you do it, AA?’ ‘Nope,’ I say. ‘No, Shih Tzu A.’ And you are talking about hardcore addiction – a person that needed to drink and needed cocaine – a dying dog did it, that’s the truth.

“At first I wanted nothing to do with it. My wife made me pick the dying dog up from the street and take it to a local vet. It was in such a bad way, but the vet was so cold and careless. I walked out of there with my wife – but then went back to pick the dog up – and renamed him Bruno. He looked me in the face and I almost started crying, but at this point I was still a gangster; still tough, I couldn’t show any emotion. When he looked me… something happened, I wanted to help him.

“Did God come and put that Shih Tzu in front of me? I believe he did. Because a million people walked by that dog – I found out later that he was laying there for about six hours.

“Man, Bruno was my best friend, with me every day, non-stop. He was the ugliest dog you have ever seen! But I loved him. A few months later, he didn’t come to me when I called him, he was dying. I rushed him to the vet and got my second dose of reality in rescue… I had to euthanize him. How do you do that? How do you kill your best friend? I asked them to fix Bruno, but they said, ‘No, he’s dying.’

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’ve buried my mother, my father and my two brothers and it crushed me.”

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’ve buried my mother, my father and my two brothers and it crushed me. From that day on, I went forward, but slowly… I was still a gangster. I had to get rid of the hate, the selfishness and the gangster that was in my heart. It took a few months but I did it; I felt how good it was to give – I couldn’t give enough.

“I made a promise to him that I was gonna stop a little bit of it, but what happened then, was other animals. I bring all of God’s creatures into Keno’s to save them – the list is endless. I made a pact to take care of animals, to create a sanctuary for the animals… so it’s cageless.

“Why is Keno’s cageless? Because I lived in a cage and I didn’t like it. When you cage an animal, you’re bringing it down, punishing it for no reason. It can’t get out, it’s a barrier – you are driving it crazy!

“A cage creates a prison; I see animals sanctuaries, and they’re like insane asylums. No. I don’t ever hear of a sanctuary that stresses you out, a sanctuary is what it is, cageless. There are no favorites at Keno’s. Keno’s is love, safety, a place where animals can finally say – thank you.

“I was blessed with life at 37 years old, it would have been a selfish thing for me to hold on to that, I needed to pass it on – I don’t wanna hurt no more. People say, ‘Hey James, how old are you?’ In reality I’m 50, but honestly… I’m 13.

“I have strength and endurance now. I’m on 1419 days straight of working 18 hours every day. My vet knows it, because he sees me every damn day and he watches me with a camera at 3 o’clock in the morning when I’m walking dogs in his run!

“I gave my heart – I took it away from the street and gave it to the animals.”

“Age does not affect me. Absolutely not. Working at 3am, I can get a little tired. Sometimes, like once a month, it catches up to me. But listen, I challenge any 15 year-old, or 16 year-old to give me one week at Keno’s, and they’ll be crying for their mama. It ain’t ‘cause they’re not physically fit…you’ve gotta have your heart in it. I gave my heart – I took it away from the street and gave it to the animals. The animals teach me as much as I teach them, and to this day, ten years later, they’re still teaching me – every day.

“People say to me, ‘James, you haven’t been on vacation in ten years!’ and I say, ‘I know, you know what my vacation is? When I sit down and train the animals.’ It’s hard work, it never ends: mopping, walks, dishes, fleas, throw-up – it’s constant. But I enjoy working for them, I put them on Keno’s pedestal, every animal.

“The first years of their lives were a waste. Now I’ve got a new life, they get a new life and we are gonna enjoy it together.”

“If I walk into Keno’s with a slice of pizza and all the animals look at it… I will give them my pizza, I will chop it up into 11 pieces, because they deserve it – the first years of their lives were a waste. Now I’ve got a new life, they get a new life and we are gonna enjoy it together – if that means ice cream every night then that’s what it is!

“The feeling I get at Keno’s is like being on a desert island in the middle of the South Pacific and just sitting there, taking in the sun, listening to the ocean. The minute I get up and walk out of the door to honking horns and the garbage in the streets… man, that’s when I’m on the edge and I don’t like life. As soon as I open the door and walk into my place – oh my God – it’s like having a door into heaven.

“My biggest dream will be my biggest challenge: I want to get 40 acres of land and start taking the animals, from Brooklyn to Upstate New York, to their own sanctuary. I want a ranch house with a big pond for the birds and without stairs ‘cause I gotta lot of geriatric dogs.

“Once I get this, and I will, I will trap all the possums and racoons in Brooklyn and get them out of harm’s way, because there is no habitat here for them no more. I’ll bring all the dogs and let them loose in the fields, I’ll build hutches everywhere. It’ll be a challenge – but I will achieve it ‘cause I got the passion to do it.

“Find out what your passion is, find what hits you in your heart. Go out and venture, and maybe you’ll even have your own Bruno one day and make a difference. It doesn’t have to be animals – don’t force a passion onto yourself. But one thing though, when you see a feral cat in the street, get a cheap can of cat food and pop that lid. Everyone can do something simple like that.

“Will I ever stop? No. I’ll probably die in Keno’s, I know it. One day, they’ll kick that door down and find me, but listen… it saved me so it’ll take me, it’s ok. I was born here and I’ll die here.

“Every day I think of Bruno, there are pictures in Keno’s of him, I’m forever thankful for him. When I was 37, the old James died and the new James was born. And that new James is called the Dogfather.”

“Find out what your passion is, find what hits you in your heart. Go out and venture, and maybe you’ll even have your own Bruno one day and make a difference.”

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