NEW ORLEANS - When two women began a mission to fight the overpopulation in animal shelters, and the local epidemic of heartworms in dogs, their path took them in an unlikely direction.

Lindsay Goldring, and her mother Genie, accidentally stumbled upon Chucky Miller three years ago. It started a close friendship of people from opposite sides of the city and cultural worlds. Yet their bond today has changed their lives and the lives of countless dogs. Chucky grew up in the Desire Housing Development fighting dogs.

"My dog gonna take your dog out in 20 minutes. That might be 100 G's ($100,000). The fight was a good, good, good, good, money, lots of money," said Miller, 42.

He was known for training winning dogs in the brutal game of dogfighting.

"They wanted that dog real bad. They come in the house, put the gun to my head. It was like, 'Hey man, we want this dog,'" he said of criminals who tried to steal his prize fighters.

Today he's a changed man. There are two reasons. First, he learned about football player Michael Vick's vicious actions behind his dog fighting ring.

"When I found out how he did the dog, was just upsetting to me, from him hurting the dogs," said Miller, upset about hearing how the dogs were killed.

Chucky says no one ever taught him that dogs have feelings, emotions and feel pain. And he didn't know so many healthy dogs are euthanized because people don't spay and neuter. He learned all of that when Lindsay happened to see him on the street selling pit bulls he had bred. She stopped and respectfully explained the sad situation.

"Once I got educated, once I learned and saw them tears in that lady eye, that made me feel like, 'Awe man.' It touched on the inside," he remembers about day Lindsay talked to him on the street corner in the Ninth Ward.

Today Chucky is the chief ambassador for the Goldring's Inner Pup of New Orleans organization to end animal suffering. He volunteers at schools and in his Ninth Ward neighborhood and car shop, Lo Hi Tires.

"They love his story. They love where he comes from. They can relate to it and they love what he has become," Genie Goldring said of the children and adults Chucky lectures to.

They've teamed up with Mid-City veterinarian Dr. Jai Diggs about the deadly heartworm epidemic spread to dogs by mosquitoes.

"A lot of the areas where there are a lot of heartworm-positive dogs, are coming from are areas that I was actually raised in. A lot of people just don't have the money and just don't have the education to know about heart worm disease," said Dr. Diggs of AllStar Animal Clinic.

"You gotta keep, take care of this dog. This dog ain't just a toy. You gotta feed it. You gotta make sure it go to the restroom. You gotta train it properly, teach him tricks. It's just like another human being, so you got to show this dog real love," Chucky said he tells people.

The Inner Pup of New Orleans will have a free heartworm clinic Saturday from noon to 2pm. That's in the upper Ninth Ward at Chucky's Lo Hi Tire Shop at 2637 North Claiborne. There will be free testing and six months of prevention for dogs with no heartworms.

The group is still working to help people with the high cost of treating dogs that do have heartworms.

The Inner Pup:

Dr. Diggs' Clinic: