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. Adrian C. Markocki

    Just a pure example of love between a man and his "friend". How each came to help one another in a time of great need.

    I hope that someone has the intelligence out there in our "media world" to offer you the opportunity to write of your relationship.

    Or, we can continue to be beaten down by "Real Housewives", "models", celebrities who would have been asked to leave any respectable rehab clinic, and people from New Jersey who no doubt have at least one more shot at reality TV in 20 years.

    Why does the "dog" come out looking better than all of the above.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  2. tombapilot04

    Poor dog has to act like he's praying just to eat.
    Poor man has to think his god exists just to feel purposeful.
    Oh well, neither of them knows what's going on anyway.

    By the way, how does the dog's acting affirm Christianity? Just asking.

    October 21, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
  3. MalePoster

    I`d jump in front of a bus to save this pooch. Wouldn`t do it for some of the keyboard jockeys in here. Isn`t it past your bedtimes? the dog will come up & read from the Bible for yez.

    October 21, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
  4. MalePoster

    My 2 cats say hello to that wonderful dog (as they steal his chow).

    October 21, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
  5. HotAirAce

    To all, believers and non-believers, who think us atheists should quit arguing about religion, let me try to explain...

    If the story was "hard luck veteran and dog find each other and live happily ever after" I would be as touched, and perhaps inspired, as much as the next person. But when a mythical supernatural being (from *any* book of silliness) is credited, then it is time for all rational thinking people to say "bull-stuff!" If believers would shutup about their superst-itions (and stop trying to turn the USA into a theocracy), I promise to do likewise. Until then, if someone utters nonsense, on any subject, they should expect someone to challenge them. Personally, I agree with Richard Dawkins (and without meaning to put words into his mouth) – the time for being tolerant of religious beliefs is over and they should be challenged at every opportunity.

    October 21, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
  6. To The Ladies

    I have made women scream, "GOD!" with my fat dog.

    October 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
  7. Barry

    No credit to the Australian Cattle Dog. Get yourself one and find out what they can do and be.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
    • ACDs are the BEST


      October 21, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  8. abby

    I know some folks won't accept the second sentence as readily as the first but here goes: A dog will love you unconditionally – God loves you unconditionally as well.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
    • Hitchens' protege

      then he sends people he loves to an eternity in hell? senseless stuff, even christians who understand the bible would disagree with you on this...there are certain rules for your god's love and acceptance, and if you don't follow those rules you suffer forever...according to theism, salvation is 100% conditional...and a dog won't love you unconditionally either...start beating your dog every day and starving it and see how much it loves you

      October 21, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
    • Abby Normal

      Religion is a control mechanism.

      And you are a sheep.

      October 21, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  9. Hitchen's protege

    Christians and Muslims and Jews...The monotheistic god is a mythical being, probably. There is no proof for the existence of any god, let alone, a omniscient, omnipresent, omni(add your adjective) creator. So a starving, dehydrated, sick man thinks that he hears the voice of god? How is this any different from a starving, dehydrated, sick person walking through the desert and seeing what he/she thinks to be water? And this is his evidence? If that's the only leg you believers have on which to stand, you're in a bit of trouble. Now belief if you want, and if it makes you feel better, great, but don't ever express it as a certain truth which you can confirm. It's just not possible. Don't lop your creation fairy tales and (un) intelligent design in with real science.
    If some sort of god does exist, I'm inclined to think that he/she would value a thoughtful, rather than subordinate, mind.

    On to the topic of suffering aka the problem of evil. Now Christians think that it's ok to give credit to big G for all the good things that happen, but that all the atrocities that occur, which we can explain, must be part of some divine plan in which the overall sum is good. A baby (who has no sins) who dies painfully of diarrhea does not have an overall sum of good. Now, maybe the family becomes closer and people treat each other better, but the outcome for the baby is a negative thing. Some would argue that the baby might get to go to heaven, but even Christians, until about 50 years ago said the baby goes to limbo. Give me a break, you keep changing the rules whenever some new, legitimate gripe comes from thinkers.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
  10. Kate

    Why are there are people arguing the existence of God in this stream of comments? Are you people serious? Go start a blog and share all your "wisdom" with the five readers who care, and just accept a feel-good story for what it is.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  11. Matthew

    @ Dick

    You didn't really answer the question. Under your reasoning you are admitting that all you are left to do is construct your own system of values because you realize that it is impossible to live in a world that you find ultimately meaningless. Your convictions are based upon your system of thought which is based first on the assumption that there is no God. It's not about "seeing the facts" (which would allude to an objective standard oddly enough), its about "how you see the facts." All systems of thought involve faith. The strongest atheists are no different than the most fundamentalist Christian.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  12. SmartBlondie

    Looking forward to the day someone mentions "God" in an article and the athiests somehow find the strength to restrain themselves. Kudos to this man for his faith. Whether you believe it is misplaced or not, it is saving his life. Must you feel you are "right" at all opportunities or can you for once let someone enjoy their faith uncriticized for it? This has become such an exhausted subject in these comments. This article is NOT about faith, it's about survival and love for an animal. Leave the guy alone with his newfound happiness, willya?

    October 21, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  13. Aly Williams

    little does he know, the dog is praying to Allah!

    October 21, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  14. collegespecific

    Wow. Poor dog.

    It must be hard to live with a master who has less brain cells than you do, but has control of the food supply.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  15. American

    This story is not about religion, it is about inspiration, happiness, joy....if you don't feel good after reading this story and watching the video, time to get on the heaven's gate coaster and leave on the next comet….and hopefully soon!

    October 21, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
  16. momof2

    Wondering where my post went....Just know that animals do have a soul...My daughter, who has Type 1 Diabetes, went extremely low with her blood suger one night....her savior..who happened to be her Yorkie, named "Gift of Joy", came scratching and barking at our bedroom door...we opened the door and she ran to our daughter...thus saving her life! We found her almost comatose....animals are amazing...sadly...we lost our Joy last year...our daughter was devastated....but...for Christmas last year ..her boyfriend gave her the gift of "Sasha"...an amazing dog who takes care of her....and for that we are grateful...

    October 21, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    My goodness–it doesn't matter whether you're Christian or not. Its still an amazing story!!

    October 21, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  18. stu

    read the bible folks. No animals in Heaven.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  19. Abby

    This is a beautiful story, whether you believe in God or not. These 2 found each other when each of them needed the other the most, and they continue to be there for each other. This is what life is, or should be, about. This should be posted on every news and animal shelter website out there.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:04 pm |
  20. Michelle

    This was too cute not to share. God Bless them both for brightening up my day!

    October 21, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
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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.