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. Beth in Austin

    Please keep Steven Boyd in your thoughts and prayers.
    He has been hospitalized in New York City, (according to the Djaingo Facebook page this evening). His health is still not certain.

    November 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
  2. Cherie

    The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for distruction, but we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 1Corinthians 1:18

    November 3, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  3. mbaker

    Touching story. Too bad CNN goes on to give air space to an endless stream of zealots who have nothing better to do than to trash one anothers' belief systems for days on end. What the hell (sorry, forgot there isn't one) is the purpose of running this endless string of crap? "Lively and courteous discussion"?? I thought from way back that the initials "CNN" implied something about "news". Why not post another two paragraph story mentioning Sarah Palin and open your editorial waste pipe to 800 more mindless comments?

    November 2, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  4. Finnigan O'Hara

    This is truly disgusting.

    November 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  5. aldebaran

    doggie needs a diet–too fat–and it will mean the dog gets sick and dies young. fat is not healthy for people or dogs. this guy needs to stop feeding the dog so much if he loves him, and it's clear he does. so–diet!! plus he doesn't have the $ for the treatments when the dog gets sick or diabetic.

    November 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  6. Jamie

    Dog is after all GOD backwards..

    November 1, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  7. Name*joe& nancy boyd

    Our Father works miracles!

    October 31, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  8. castleb

    What a beautiful story, reaffirming the truth of Love..As Tolstoy wrote: Where love is, God is. Love believes in us even when and if we no longer believe in love or ourselves. . We are loved whether we deserve it or not, as we are, not as we should be. All creation testifies to Love, even in its most turbulent and destructive hours.

    October 31, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  9. ybs

    sheep are sheep!


    October 31, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  10. ybs

    god and religions are one big pile of dung!


    October 31, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • ybs

      make it dog dung!

      October 31, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  11. ybs

    Unbeknownst to you, I'm your god! I can/did do everything your god can/did! So, start worshiping me!

    Sheep, I do exist - you need no fairytale!


    October 31, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  12. Danielle

    @ MJ if you sat down and had a conversation with someone, would you believe that they are real? now, just because i havent had a conversation with them yet, does that make them any less real? you cant prove it with science because He didnt want you to be able to. i dont need "scientific" proof, i got all the proof i need. i spoke to him he spoke to me, many times.

    October 29, 2010 at 12:45 am |
  13. Paul of LA


    October 29, 2010 at 12:07 am |
  14. Jill

    As a response to MJ, God does not want bad things to happen to his children, but because of the sin in the world, bad things do happen to good people. God is not to blame. Sin is the absence of God, as darkness is the absence of light.

    October 29, 2010 at 12:06 am |
  15. Parker

    God doesn't save selected people, he saves all that ask's him. Also, God shouldn't be blamed for all the bad stuff in his life, you can blame Adam and Eve for that, they were the ones who did the first sin, thus why misery and other stuff happens. If you read the Bible, you would get why... not the book of Mormon, not the quron (however it is spelled) not anything but the Holy Bible... you can get one at your local Lifeway Christian Store

    October 28, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  16. Mary Murdy

    I saw this report on CNN this morning and clicked on this link to send to others I thought might find it cute. I'm shocked bye the seriousness and content of the above "comments". Those of you that believe in a god, actually believe a dog can pray and know what he is doing?

    October 27, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  17. Stacy Reynolds

    Really good read. Thanks!

    October 27, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  18. lc

    isn't it sad how DAVID JOHNSON can turn such a beautiful story into people getting angry?? WOW. I am sorry ...i read over some more... don't even bother answering the question, David. It's obvious you're just a sad little man. And why do we all keep responding?? I don;t think I've EVER come across a bigger waste of time.

    October 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  19. Sara

    There are so many reasons to thank this man. Thank you for fighting for our country. Thank you for saving this dog that everyone else had given up on. Thank you for your faith despite what others have to say about. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with the world. I'm sure there's more to thank you for, as well. I'm sorry that you've had to deal with these medical issues. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    October 27, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
  20. lc

    @ DAVID
    YOUR POSTS ARE EVERYWHERE.... an honest question... Why so much hate? Are you bored? Are you lonely? I know these answers must be yes... because I can't think of anything I hate enough to go and spend hours making sarcastic comments and arguing with people. Do you ever try the one thing new a day and get off your computer? Make someone happier by what you write? You really want to be the guy who spent hours on the computer arguing with people.. Telling them that THEIR happiness, their strength, their love, their joy isn't real?? That is what you are doing. So ANSWER ONE THING... why? What do you get out of doing that? You have responded to everyone but me... I never ever post stuff online... I was skimming through this and noticed you came up more than anyone..

    And you people on this thread being malicious and saying how he's the devil.. come ON. Ridiculous. You need to reevaluate where your faith really stands too ... God is the only one who is spossed to judge... 😉

    October 27, 2010 at 4:02 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.