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October 21st, 2010
09:56 AM ET

Man saved by God, and by dog who says grace

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

The video was meant to simply make some Facebook friends, and his mother in particular, smile.

Steven Boyd, 39, had taught his dog Djaingo how to "say grace," and one late September morning, camera in hand, he coaxed the sleepy pup out to the living room and into prayer.

Front paws on Boyd's thigh, head bowed, man and dog offered up these words:

Thank you for allowing us to be the man and puppy you've allowed us to be. Father, thank you for our friends and family, their prayers and support and energy that they give us… Father, I do ask a special prayer that you help me to not chase the neighbor's cat and to listen to my master whenever he asks me to do anything.

What began as a post on Boyd's Facebook page was passed on and shared. It's popped up all over YouTube, appeared on numerous other sites, and it even got play on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

But the story behind Djaingo the praying dog is deeper than it is cute.

Boyd found his way to the dog just when they needed each other most.

The man was sick - had been for more than a year and a half - when he strolled into an animal shelter looking for a temporary escape. It was September 10, 2003, the day before the second anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the memories of that day weighed heavily on him.

For 12 years, Boyd says, he served in the U.S. Army. He says he was, among other things, a sniper, a paratrooper and, subsequently, a counter narcotics operator. He'd been fearless professionally and personally. He'd jumped out of planes, rappelled down cliffs and mountain biked his way across dangerous terrains.

Now, though, he was losing everything. The hospitalizations kept happening. His career was shot. The relationship with the woman he thought he'd marry had ended. The medical questions loomed large. He was dying.

At the pound that day, he simply offered to walk some dogs. He had no plan to adopt an animal. But then, three hours into his visit, his eyes and the dog's locked. He knew, in that instant, they were meant to be together.

The only problem was the dog was already scheduled to die. It was set to be euthanized the following morning. It was too aggressive and could not be trained, the shelter workers insisted. Boyd didn't care.

He begged. He pleaded. And $75 later, the best investment he says he ever made, the duo went home.

The former military man, who lives in Austin, Texas, put that pup through its own boot camp. The dog began to trust his owner, show affection and within six months he'd been transformed. He was happy, loving, sweet.

"He saved my life as much as I saved his," Boyd says.

Along the way, the Australian Cattle Dog was given a proper name - rather than his given name, "Chip." His owner thought back to the time when he'd done some training with the 3rd Royal Australian Airborne. The men had taught him the term "djaingo" – to "go djaingo," Boyd explains, means to go out, get drunk and rowdy, pick up women and have bar fights. And so that tough little dog was named.

Since he first was hospitalized on February 19, 2002, Boyd has struggled. Because of multiple traumatic brain injuries - sustained through military exercises, a car wreck, a rappelling accident and a grenade detonation - he says he suffers from gastroparesis, a paralysis of the gastrointestinal tract. It makes eating and drinking a form of "Russian roulette," he says. It can cause food to sit in his stomach and rot. He has starved himself, unintentionally. For days on end, he can vomit 10 to 15 times an hour. He's broken ribs in the process.

As a result of this illness and repeated, extensive dehydration, he says his weight - 175 when healthy - has dropped to as low as 98 pounds.

By his side, in sickness and in health, has been Djaingo. Boyd's parents live three hours away, and his mother, Cheryl, says she takes solace knowing the dog is there.

He sticks by her son and keeps watch. When Boyd is too sick to take the dog out, he can leave the apartment door open. The dog will run outside on his own "to do his business," she says, and then guard the open door. If her son is in need of medical attention, the dog will alert neighbors.

Having Djaingo has been source of comfort to Boyd. But there was one time when the animal just wasn't enough.

After several days of vomiting four years ago, he thought he'd end it all. He'd had a friend who years ago had committed suicide by drinking Clorox, and from the bathtub's floor, where he was curled up, Boyd eyed the nearby bleach bottle. With the cap off, he prepared to drink.

"I heard it as distinctive as I hear your voice right now," Boyd, his own voice shaking, says by phone to CNN. "I heard, 'Don’t do this.' It was my father God, and I broke down. I get teary-eyed now talking about it."

He'd grown up in a Christian home, "a proverbial 'Leave It to Beaver' family," he says. His dad had been the deacon of their church. His mother is a Sunday school and Bible study teacher. And though Boyd always considered himself Christian, up until that moment he realized he'd been living the Christian life, as an adult, on his own terms.

The debilitating illness that can leave him homebound much of the time, the loss of everything, had in fact saved him, he says.

"It changed everything. I truly feel as if it was God using a 2-by-4, smacking me in the head and telling me to wake up," says Boyd, who described himself as "callous" after his years in the military. "It's softened my heart in so many ways. It's made me realize the things you take for granted in life are sometimes the most important things in life."

He got involved in church. He attends Bible studies when he's able. And as last year's Christmas gift to his mother, who describes herself as a "prayer warrior," he taught Djaingo how to say grace.

"He's a disabled veteran on a very limited income," his mom says. So in lieu of buying each other gifts, she told her son last year that instead they'd "do something, write something or make something" for one another.

What her son and Djaingo did for her touched her heart, she says. And, with the release of the recent video, she's not alone in receiving this gift.

The response has overwhelmed Boyd. He's received more than 5,000 messages from around the globe - including Australia, Russia, Thailand. The friend requests on Facebook have poured in by the hundreds. Djaingo, now with his own Facebook page, is racking up new friends, too.

Boyd has gotten marriage proposals. A grandmother who is going through chemotherapy and lives alone says she watches the video every morning to help her face a new day. A mother whose son has lost faith is hoping that by teaching the dog to pray, her son will feel the connection again, too. Pastors are using the video in sermons.

And all of this, including what it's done for her son, Boyd's mother says, is proof of "God's hand" at work.

"Steven told us he was so lonely. So much of the time, he's apartment-bound. Now he's getting emails from all over the world," she says. "It's given Steven such a boost to his morale. God can take the tiniest thing and use it for good."

Every evening, Boyd and Djaingo say grace together. It's not that the man believes the roly-poly dog, who's been mistaken for a pig before, is actually praying. He knows his faithful pet is just doing what he's told so he can get his dinner.

"But it's an affirmation of my faith to have my dog be able to participate," Boyd says. "Who would have thought God would use my fat dog to spread His glory?"

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Christianity • Faith • Prayer • Technology

soundoff (603 Responses)
  1. BORN AGAIN LOVER OF JESUS CHRIST EX-METH ADDICT

    my husband and i were on pot, drank and done other drugs.then our marriage starting falling apart as satan loves trouble and is the prince of the air.I did not know what to do and I did not know why because I did know of Jesus and God but I did not know HIM. but I called on HIM and I can tell you that HE came in a MIGHTY WAY. He restored our marriage.....HE FORGAVE US,HE SAVED US, REFORMED US AND IS TRANSFORMING US DAY BY DAY FROM GLORY TO GLORY..WE DID NOT GO TO REHAB, HE WAS AND IS OUR REHAB..WE HAVE BEEN CLEAN NOW FOR GOING ON 4 YEARS..DOCTORS SAY YOU JUST DON'T COME OFF METH WITHOUT REHAB.BUT GOD SAYS DIFFERENT...WE BELIEVE IN HIM AND WE LOVE HIM...PRAYERFULLY ONE DAY YOU WILL CALL ON HIM AND ASK HIM TO COME INTO YOUR HEART AND LET HIM BE MASTER OVER YOUR LIFE. I CAN TELL YOU THAT THERE IS NOTHING ANY BETTER THA\N LIVING FOR THE LORD JESUS CHRIST..LORD OF LORDS AND KING OF KINGS. AND YES PRAYER WARRIOR THERE WILL BE A DAY WHEN ROMANS 14:11-12 WILL COME ABOUT..AND I PRAY FOR ALL OF YOU THAT DO NOT KNOW HIM. JESUS CAME FOR A RELATIONSHIP AND NOT RELIGION AND I THANK HIM(THE CHRIST) FOR MY SALVATION BECAUSE I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT HIM..

    January 14, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  2. cast

    i love how the atheists in the world bring out the "forcing religion" card on believers, yet in turn they do the same thing. Irony. Seriously, if you hate God so much, then you're just as delusional as of those whom you claim are. If God was proven through tangible, human means, He wouldn't be God. Why would you put your faith in something humanly possible? By the way, you go on and on about how believing in God is delusional, yet you go on and on about how He, whom you do not believe exists, isn't real. Irony. Also, there has been many historic evidence from non christians regarding the life and times of Jesus as well as his Miraculous works. Not to mention, if you really look hard enough. He never was born on December 25th. The Romans enforced that for their Yuletide Celebration, hence yule log? Anyway, just because you don't believe in something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Think of it this way, can you really say tomorrow will exist? Do you exactly know when you'll die? You can believe it doesn't exist and go on about your ways, just don't expect others to fall in it with you. Have a nice day :).

    January 11, 2011 at 5:21 am |
  3. Your Average Atheist

    A dog is a way better companion to get to know. Not some invisible fuck head in the sky that lets his men/women/children suffer on earth and possibly in an after life later as well. Since he knows everything, why would he create us knowing bad shit was coming our way? He must be a masochist. Oh, and his dad, God. I heard today on Nat GEO that Mary was 14 when she became pregnant. Was god a child molester? I think so. This explains the priests following in the footsteps of the heavenly father. perverts.

    January 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  4. Your Average Atheist

    Great story except for the dog praying. You know, dog is an anagram for god. god dog dog god , maybe we should take time out each day to praise our loyal canine companions and not some invisible magical man in the sky. A dog actually has power to help people

    January 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  5. Peyton

    Steven,
    THANK YOU for your selfless courage on the battlefied as well as in the media. You are a hero and an inspiration in every way. When I feel sorry for myself because I have gastroparesis, I will think of you as a brother in this strange and often agonizing journey battling this outrageous disease–and other demons. God Bless You and God Bless Djaingo!

    December 26, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
  6. Hisbelovedone

    wooowww... i've just read this blog, and i see soooo many "David Johnson" name here!
    come on people, can't you all see the point here? this is exactly what he wants from people who believe in God! we're just arguing and arguing again about God...
    it's not our calling to argue like this. we have to make Him known.
    let's just talk about His love in the man's life.
    let's just talk about how lovely is the dog.
    let's just talk about His love in our life.
    maybe, God will touch his and people who don't believe in Him (but they're here to see us and to i'm sure they want something good will happen in their lives by seeing this blog) by beautiful things we say here, by our stories about how great is His love in our lives.
    it is God's part to touch someone's heart to believe and accept Him as his God. not ours.
    we just make Him known. let's make Him known as a beautiful God...
    He loves all people, even people who reject Him.
    He loves, and He is the love.
    so, bless you all! :D

    November 18, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  7. Hisbelovedone

    wooowww..... so many "David Johnson" name here...
    can't you all see the point here? this is what he wants, to make people who believe arguing a lot about God.
    it's not our part. let God touch his heart. he will know what we feel if God let him know about Him personally.
    let's just talk about the beauty of His love for the man and the lovely dog.
    let's talk about His love in our life.
    maybe God will touch his heart by beautiful things we say...
    bless you all! :)

    November 18, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • Kim

      Yes, I am glad that there are many atheists expressing theri views here.
      Our duty as Christians has finished with them. Let us get on with telling others that have not heard about Jesus that He loves them and want to save them from their sins.

      Merry Christmas.

      December 26, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Kim

      David Johnson makes infinitely more sense than any believer. How about you, and all believers, just shut the bleep up and leave everyone else to their beliefs? Or better yet, check yourself into a mental health inst-itution and get started on deprogramming your childish tribal myths. Have a better year WITHOUT god!

      December 26, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
  8. Light of Truth

    This messed up man should give the humans a clue as to why humane euthanasia for humans should be standard practice. Life in this sometimes brutal world is just not worth all the pain it brings. This man should be "put down". If his "faith" is so genuine, then he will have a nice flight to a heavenly place. Sleep tight and go on.

    November 18, 2010 at 1:48 am |
  9. Vic

    There's religion and there's spirit. The point here is the connection, respect, love and kindness between living creatures, a connection that can be both powerful and uplifting. Kindness makes everyone feel better than meanspirited-ness.

    November 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  10. Tom

    I come late to this discussion, so it is probable no one will even read this, but i will proceed for my own amusement. I'm certain all of us here have heard every argument before. To attempt to prove or disprove the existence of God is impossible, as there is no evidence one does exist, and it is impossible to prove a negative - that one does not exist. Now, the fun starts because those who believe immediately point to the universe and our own planet and ask, "how could all this have happened without an intelligence at the source?" To them, that is the "evidence." To the others, this is no "evidence" at all, but merely a belief. And right there is the beginning and end of the argument - the answer is whatever you believe. So, that takes care of religion. Politics anyone?

    November 8, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  11. Bornagainstreligion

    Sniper by day, religious man by night. Is there a limit what people will believe?

    November 7, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  12. cassie

    Just remember this: Dog spelled backwarads i God.

    November 7, 2010 at 10:44 am |
  13. CW

    To all....who don't believe in God

    Yeah....I know how the apostle's felt sometimes....they were constantly asked for PROOF...People the proof is THE BIBLE.

    The proof is having the Faith to believe...the Proof is showing you can live like God wants you too...obey what he says.

    November 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  14. Tony in Bama

    The problem most people have with believing in God/god is that they have to be able to wrap their mind around it completely and understand it fully in terms of physics and mathematical laws.

    A friend of mine who was an FBI profiler before he was forcibly retired described God and serial killers the same way when discussing his recovery from some pretty serious psychosis.

    He had been doing profile work for years and began to have nightmares and day sweats and feared he was going to commit some horrible crime or murder. His analyst told him that he had simply gotten too close.

    Even though he was a very successful profiler they retired him and he was told that he had begun to understand the MO of the killers and they only way that could happen is if you become like them. Otherwise their actions are totally un-understandable.
    He told me the same was true of God and unbelievers. Most people can’t believe in something that they cannot identify with and that’s very natural. Faith happens when you can believe in God even though you do not fully understand it.

    He credited God for saving his life and bringing him back to his normal mind but totally understands people who don’t believe.

    Faith is the difference. It requires a leap and it may not work for everyone.

    November 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
  15. Abd al-Latif

    And now...cue the predictable replies from (1) fundamentalist evangelical born-again Pentecostal snake-handling speaking-in-tongues "Christians", and (2) self-righteous arrogant pseudo-intellectual atheists, and (3) dog lovers. It's all so predictable...yawn....

    November 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
  16. Prayer Warrior

    I don't try to justify christianity. The bible stands on its own. One thing about it, there shall come a day as the bible says:It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'EVERY KNEE will bow before me; EVERY TONGUE will confess to God.So then, each of US will give an account of himself to God.'"Romans 14:11-12"....whatever your beliefs are– if you have KNEES you are going to bow to the King of Kings and to the Lord of Lords. The proof is in the pudding! Enough said!!!!

    November 4, 2010 at 8:04 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.