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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. Ranjana

    @ David Johnson....you are hilarious!

    October 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • @Ranjana

      You aren't.

      You scare the crap out of me.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  2. kei

    I am not religious but this story was very touching. I love stories about strong relationships between humans and their animal companions and I know this story must hold strong meaning for those who believe in a higher power. I am constantly disgusted by others who, like me, do not believe in a higher power, yet feel the need to bash a criticize others for their beliefs. This is not at all necessary. Truly a great story, whether you have faith or not. Get off your high horse, atheists.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
    • @kei

      "Get off your high horse, atheists."

      Not every atheist here said anything remotely bad to any believer, but you have – to every non-believer.

      And I have no horse.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  3. EmeraldCity

    A beautiful, very touching story. I've seen the video and now this article makes it more endearing.

    Boyd is lucky to have Djaingo (but also responsible for the animal's wonderful capabilities) and vice versa. It is a terrible thing to hear that Boyd suffers so profoundly and am glad that the dog brings him some joy.

    Continued happiness to you both.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  4. sisi

    Hey I'm not a religious person but If this guy's faith can get him through the day and give him hope to live the rest of his days, I'm all for it. No one can prove anything on either side so just let everyone have their beliefs.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  5. Beth in Austin

    This is a wonderful story. This gentleman is a disabled veteran who has rescued a pound puppy. The dog helps him cope with his many struggles, both spiritual and physical. Can't we focus on that wonderful message?
    What song is playing in the background at his house in the video?

    October 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
    • Sue

      The song playing in the background is "Born Again" by Third Day.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  6. Jim P.

    "If you are wrong, and there is a God, don't you want to be a part of His Eternal Kingdom? "

    That's called Pascal;s Wager and is both bad logic and bad apologetics. You would first have to define *which* god as there have been thousands of them proposed often with mutually exclusive worship criteria. Choose the wrong one and you are as bad off as though you had chosen none.

    And "Don't you think you might be wrong" cuts both ways. I admit I might be wrong, beleivers are almost incapable of doing so. I have yet to see anything that convinces me that any given version of god exists and much to convince me that any given example is unlikely to be true.

    I do not assert as fact that there is no god or goddess, I assert I have not seen convincing evidence of any god or goddess yet.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  7. JimmyJazz

    "Struck me kinda funny seem kinda funny sir to me...At the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe" ~Springsteen

    October 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  8. dmacker

    A wonderful heart warming story no matter who you are or where you came from.
    Mans best friend at his best.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  9. Barbara

    What you people fail to understand is that you can argue until the world ends and it will make no difference. There will always be believers and non-believers, bigots, racism, bullying, and every other subject people argue about. You are better off to keep your opinions to yourself.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • @Babs

      Yet, you cannot practice what you preach.

      Pretty much sums it up for my argument.

      Thank you.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
  10. sanjosemike

    First of all, thanks to this courageous veteran who almost lost his life due to his military service. Nobody can thank you enough for what you did defending this Country. I am personally humbled by your service to duty and I thank you.

    Dogs look to their pack-leader for guidance and direction. They will quite willingly turn over their lives to their pack leader. It's part of their genetics. I'm delighted that these two found a relationship that worked for both of them.

    In the mean time, I hope that this courageous veteran can find a solution to his gastroenterology problems. It may be time to try alternative medicine. Just a thought....

    sanjosemike

    October 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • @Linda

      Nah, the donations all you poor saps will send him due to his intelligent dog will tide him over nicely.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
    • @D-bo

      "If you’re a true atheist….then life means absolutely nothing. "

      I think you are mixing Atheism up with Nihilism.

      And sorry to refute your espousing of Flew. Flew was batshiat crazy when turned to Deism; that sir, is a FACT.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
    • D-Bo

      Nihilism and atheism are ultimately the same thing Sanjosemike. How can there be no purpose or meaning out there in the universe and then suddenly meaning comes into existence simply because life accidentally happen by chance? How does meaning come from no meaning? This is the same problem atheists run into everytime. First there was nothing...and then spontaneously something came out of nothing by chance (which has no power in and of itself). Then....that space matter somehow magically became intelligent. Again, intelligence coming out of non-intelligence = irrational. Finally, that intelligent matter that came from nothing, somehow now has purpose when there was no such thing as purpose before that. I'm really scratching my head here SanJoseMike....this irrational line thinking is what you choose to believe in? Why not believe in a self-existant eternal being that doesn't violate the laws of logic the way a uncaused effect does (eg: big bang by chance).

      October 21, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  11. Nickie

    The last two lines of the article pretty much says it all. No, the dog isn't really praying, but this video is spreading the good news that God loves us and that we can talk with him. I know that I have been blessed to read how this dog has helped this very ill man. God is good!

    October 21, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  12. Jim P.

    "Thank you for allowing us to be the man and puppy you've allowed us to be. "

    Wow, that's one semantic zero there.

    Glancing htrough the assorted responses from "christians" here is sure not the best advertisement for your faith I have ever seen. Spews of hate and anger and name calling to those of us who dare to have the nerve to question some of the articles' relevance or whether or not they validate your paticular brand of god would be discouraging if I were contemplating your religion as a possible lifestyle choice.

    What happened to "return kindness when given hate" and so on? Someday I hope to actually meet a genuine christian, there seem very few of them willing to actually live by what they claim is their god's rules.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
    • Linda

      You make me embarassed to be an atheist– a choice I generally consider to be intelligent.

      October 21, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
    • @Linda

      Be embarrassed for what you are because of what you do, not because of someone else. Jim didnt say anything wrong at all in my opinion.

      You are one of those poser atheist it appears. You think it's cool to be nihilistic in matters of religion, but when someone expresses something you don't agree with, you turn on them ...

      Just like the Fundies. Only I am guessing you are a warty fat woman with no prospects, so it is easy to disbelieve others honesty.

      Welcome to mediocrity.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  13. MZLILDIVA

    I ENJOYED THIS STORY...IT'S NICE TO READ AN INSPIRING STORY !!!!!!!!!!! I'M GLAD THAT HE OVERCAME HIS STRUGGLE WITH SUICIDE AND THAT GOD SAW FIT FOR HIM TO INSPIRE OTHERS THROUGH TEACHING HIS DOG TO PRAY...YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT PLANS GOD HAS FOR YOU AND HE EVIDENTLY HAD GREAT PLANS FOR HIM AND HE NEEDED HIM HERE TO INSPIRE OTHERS... I LOVED THE STORY

    October 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  14. ST

    Those of you who is being really offensive, please if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all. The man is ill, he doesn't need you to call him crazy or deluded...keep those comments to yourself.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • STD umbass

      Who died and made you Overlord missy?

      October 21, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
    • David Johnson

      If I make the claim that I heard the voice of god, I'd expect some skepticism.

      I am happy the man appears to have found peace and happiness for he and his dog. That doesn't mean I have to believe a miracle occurred, without proof.

      Cheers!

      October 22, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  15. Scott

    Great story, I hope him and his dog have many more years of happiness together.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  16. yashca

    The man saved himself. He really didn't want to die. He talked himself out of doing it. Mans strongest impulse is self preservation. The dog was doing what he had to do to get fed. He could care less what was said before he got his kibble. If this guy is doing good things with his life now great.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  17. cbozey

    I do not believe in God, but this is a wonderful story. I think he is brave and the dog and him seem to be a perfect match. The video is cute and hats off to this guy, hes been through the toughest stuff and is still strong in his faith. Enjoyable read!!!

    October 21, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  18. readnvote

    The "hand of god?" I live with a Cow Dog, I know better.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  19. neebster

    I think yo are all missing the point. It was his faith that got him through. Whether he thought he heard God or not, it does not make a difference. Faith is what should get us all through. They say everything happens for a reason. Because of his dog companion he has been able to go on. That is reason enough. Quit trying to read to much into it and see it for what it is. He was lonely,rescued a dog from death, which in it self is a great deed,and them taught him to pray. They are both saved. We should all be so lucky to have a faithfull companion. All animals want is to be loved and give love back. Not like his dippy girlfriend who broke up with him.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • Ana

      that's exactly what I was trying to explain in my post. Most people here are either stupid and don't get the point or try to make this into a big christian thing. It's not about religion it's about faith and how it got this poor man through. He could've been muslim, hindou or whatever but if that helped him then good for him!!

      October 21, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  20. Patty

    This is an awesome story. I hope Boyd and Djaingo live a long and happy life together.

    October 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
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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.