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. Vanessa

    What a heartwarming story. I have always believed that animals can bring great healing and love into our lives.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  2. dd

    Luke, your sarcasm was not lost on me – good story though

    October 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  3. TheGreatTroll

    That's not an Australian Shepherd, that's an Australian Cattle Dog, totally different animal in both appearance and temperment. Cattle Dogs are tough.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • TGT

      Indeed they are. I have a 3 year old named Oz and he rocks!

      BY THE WAY YOU FUNDIES – I was told in a Baptist Church – by the clergy – that animals HAVE NO SOULS.

      So answer that one.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  4. Karen Saucedo

    I beleive in "A God" but have no idea what that is. I try to live by the golden rule. Organized religion turns me OFF.
    However, that said, this man's mother is devoutly religious and he did this for her? I think that's lovely. Obviously the dog isn't actually saying grace but they sure do make a nice team.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  5. PJ

    good story-would like to see people who love dogs and understand they are sentient beings, advocate strongly for humane farms and slaughter houses.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  6. Jason

    A Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. Touching story.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said, "A Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains."

      No it can't. LOL!

      October 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
    • Jason

      No, but a bedbug can move thousands of New Yorkers!

      October 21, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  7. Tom

    I loved this story. It sounds like they're both good for each other.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
  8. dawn

    Why is it a fantacy to believe in God? If we had another million years to develop our technology we could probably colonize a whole planet with beings and keep track of every single one of them through microchips in their dna. Weird, yes. Impossible, hmmmm. I doubt that it is impossible. A million years is a long time and we already can grow body parts on rats and weird crap like that. The one we know as God may be more physically real than we could ever imagine.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • Big B


      You are on to something that many people believe. The human race has been helped along by extraterrestrial beings. Still doesn't create a need for a god though.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
    • dawn

      Well I think the Supernatural/Alien being(s) we know as God is out there. I don't think there will be a huge ruthless punishment for those who have different beliefs though because most of us are only following the direction they feel is correct from their own individual life experiences. Most of what people perceive of God has been corrupted and spoiled by human agenda.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
    • David Johnson


      Thats not too far off from what Mormons believe. Isn't religion (all religion) a hoot?

      October 21, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • dawn

      "we already can grow body parts on rats and weird crap like that."

      Careful, you are leaning to Science in your defense of religion.

      /get ya kicked off the boat to WhereverLand or whatever you believe.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  9. dawn

    What a precious dog. I hope Steven is able to find a wonderful doctor who can help him out. I can't imagine suffering so much every day.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  10. Maureen Cassidy Photography

    Amazing story! I would love to see more images of the two of you.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  11. nolagirl

    I believe the devil is hard at work, trying to spread his evil through one person on this blog. David Johnson might know who it is.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said, "I believe the devil is hard at work, trying to spread his evil through one person on this blog. David Johnson might know who it is."

      I appreciate your calling me a devil, but the truth is, there is no devil. No devil, no Jesus, no god. Satan was invented, because people felt funny worshiping a god who had just wiped out a town of good people, in a flood.

      One of the people posting actually said something to that effect.

      Anyway, don't be afraid. There is no nasty devil and nothing hiding under your bed.

      Happy Trails!

      October 21, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • nolagirl

      @ David Johnson,
      Oh I'm not afraid.... I have GOD on my side. And what makes you so sure YOU know the truth? But I am impressed...you know a Bible story... see there is a little GOD inside of you!! Now THERE's a miracle!!

      October 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
    • nolagirl

      Christianity and all the other religions have perpetuated FAR more evil and death than "Satan" ever did.

      Read a book without a secret agenda before you open your trap.


      October 21, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • David Johnson


      I bet I know as much about the bible as most fundies. No brag. Just fact.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  12. Barbara Moses

    God is "AWESOME", and so are you as he allowed you to SEE FIRST HAND his love for you, and I myself am learning lessons daily. Your story is inspiration to millions as God has intended. Thank you for sharing your challenges that are made into victory. You will NEVER FEEL THAT LONLINESS AGAIN!

    October 21, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  13. George

    The article implies the dog can bark out Grace. Still it's a sweet article and I think the guy began to redeem himself from his previous work as a killer when he saved the dog.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  14. lauren

    im not religious but if faith gets him through his days, helps him recover from his horrible disease and trauma of war, then thats great. People cope in different ways, religion can be one of those ways and it also can give people a sense of purpose i guess.Everyone is different. Dogs are also a great form of therapy, nothing better in my opinion. the round ole pup is aborable. Pretty cool video.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  15. nobi

    Loved it!!!

    October 21, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  16. cs_guy

    To David Johnson, God created you in your mothers womb and still desires to give you everlasting life, and life more abundant in this life. Only one catch, you must confess Jesus is God's flesh and blood son and your personal pulpit to the father. I sincerely hope you consider this offer soon.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • David Johnson


      There was this persistent rumor, that my mother was a virgin. But who believes those kind of stories huh? LOL

      October 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
    • cs_guy


      October 21, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
    • Muneef


      Hi, if I am right about whom you are speaking of I would say yes I am among those certifying that she was Virgin and what was told to be it became to be through a puff of air from the Holy Spirit sent by God.

      October 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
  17. njk

    What a sweet story!! A man wanting to just help out and got a sweet pet along the way. Animals are great companions to those that are sick or lonely. In fact studies have shown that people with pets tend to live longer. What a beautiful gift he gave his mother, something so simple yet from the heart. It gave her joy and many others, that have viewed this.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  18. JTennant

    This is the first time I've replied to one of these threads, though I read them once in a while... and now I just have to speak up.

    It seems that these comment sections are used mainly by people who seek a forum in which to argue, call each other names and just plain vent their own anger and hatred. The story itself almost seems irrelevant.

    C'mon, pleople! It was a nice little piece about a man and his dog. Instead of calling each other ugly names, try exercising some kindness toward one another. It'll brighten your day.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • Big B

      @JTennant, I hate you

      October 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
    • JTennant


      October 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  19. The Night Watchman

    @ David Johnson
    "There is absolutely no evidence for there being a soul. All that we are, is in our brain. When we experience brain death, we simply no longer exist. There is no afterlife. No Heaven. No Hell. Sorry."

    You must have first hand experience. You have died before then, and know this is factual? Because if you have not, how can you make this claim?

    October 21, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @The Night Watchman

      I said:
      "There is absolutely no evidence for there being a soul. All that we are, is in our brain. When we experience brain death, we simply no longer exist. There is no afterlife. No Heaven. No Hell. Sorry."

      You said, "You must have first hand experience. You have died before then, and know this is factual? Because if you have not, how can you make this claim?"

      No watchman. What I said was, there is NO EVIDENCE for there being a soul. In order for your comment to make sense, I would have had to say: "There is no soul".

      One more time: There is no evidence whatsoever of a soul. None. Cheers!

      October 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
    • Night Watchman has no light on


      This is the order of blog discussion.


      October 21, 2010 at 7:38 pm |
  20. Muneef

    Why you are not here? Suggest you buy your self a Dog maybe then you would be guided to God..after all Dogs are the best friend of man and most faithful than all family members most of the times..after all we only see God through his Creatures and Creation..

    October 21, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
    • Reality

      Muneef, Muneef, Muneef,

      As noted above:

      Said dog would get top dollar at any Korean meat market!!

      October 21, 2010 at 4:35 pm

      October 22, 2010 at 12:27 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.