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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. Connie Walters

    Steven – you are an inspiration! You are loved and you are not alone! None of us are! Spirits speak to each other in ways we cannot imagine and I know that you and your companion speak to each other in volumes! Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for your testimony of a Living, Caring Father in Heaven! 🙂

    October 21, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  2. Eric

    It would seem that David Johnson posting comments here is nothing more than a trolling. Whether he believes in God or not is not the question. It's more a question of why he has to make comments at all. Nothing more than a troll. Go back under that bridge, David.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Eric

      So, I'm only allowed to make comments, If they agree with what you believe? That doesn't seem quite right...

      October 21, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
  3. Deej

    This is a sweet story about a man helping a dog and the dog giving love back. I am glad they found each other and hope they have many happy days.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  4. HR

    Maybe I missed the point but I didn't hear "grace". Or was the whole thing about how God and how he brought the two together during the tough times...

    October 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  5. Calvin

    one person sharing their story, that is good. Hopefully, more then one will have their eyes and ears open to benefit from the stroy.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  6. Jack

    I can not prove the existance of God no more than anyone can prove that he does not exist. What I do know that exists is faith. Whether it is faith in oneself; faith in my fellow man; faith in God. And faith can move mountains. The unquesting love that a Dog gives its human companion is real. If that love contributed to saving this man or even just making his life better it is worth knowing and celebrating. I only feel sorrow for those who cannot let people believe. I feel sorrow for those who cannot celebrate life.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Jack

      You said, "And faith can move mountains."

      No it can't.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  7. Chuck

    It is a cute story, but also happens thousands of times daily with man and his best friend without the whole "god" thing involved. Let's not make it more than what it is. A dog taught to do tricks.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  8. daffd

    You should all be ground up and killed

    October 21, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • Huh?

      Can we all be killed before being 'ground' up??! Sounds very painful the way you put it.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  9. milo

    religion is a man made ideology, plain and simple. created to explain things people didn't understand at the time. do some research and you'll find a crazy person at the beginning of it claiming he heard voices that guided him to do something or write something. imagine if the bible was written today or there was a Jesus today. they'd be laughed out of town.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
  10. HungryT

    I had a border collie come into my life, his owner had recently died, she was a great person. Her husband had to keep coming to my house to bring him home, until he eventually told me to keep him. I had recently separated from my husband of 20 years, had 3 kids and was quite devastaded. This dog seemed to know how I felt and what I was thinking. I had him for years, he passed away 2 weeks ago and I miss him terribly. It seems the dog always finds you, when you need them.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  11. dike

    I think that dog was so cute.. yes having a dog does increase love and affection in most human lives. Weather you believe in God or not it is up to you but when you have a good dog you will have more love. No wonder Muslims think Dogs are Satan....

    October 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  12. Nancy

    What an inspirational person and story. I'm so happy that he was able to overcome all his suffering and found a reason to keep on living. People need to stop bashing each other's faith because that's not the point of this story; it's about the human spirit and overcoming obstacles in our lives by finding ways to cope and move on.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  13. montyross

    troll has to keep fighting to not believe in jesus despite the overwhelming evidence of trolls existence

    October 21, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  14. KAREN

    I love this clip. I hope you do get better and the doctors find a cure for your illness. Pet your puppy for me :O)

    October 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm |
  15. Nikki

    This article was encouraging and a blessing. I enjoyed it, not to mention it was nice to read something that had an upbeat feel to it instead of a downer feel!! 🙂 Also shows that when you focus on things other than yourself you can conquer big things even when they seem impossible!

    October 21, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  16. Georgie

    We all have the right to our beliefs – that is what our forefathers fought for in previous wars. Lets play nice and respect each others opinions.
    I thought the story was very sweet.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
  17. Georgie

    I LOVED THE STORY – OF COURSE I DO LOVE DOGS AND I DO BELIEVE THEY HAVE A SOUL. EACH TO HIS OWN – I DO BELIEVE IT IS CALLED - LIVE AND LET LIVE - WHAT YOU BELIEVE I RESPECT AND I WOULD EXPECT THE SAME FOR MY BELIEFS.
    "GOD BLESS"

    October 21, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
  18. Julie

    Good grief, can't you just smile and enjoy the unbelievably cute dog? Does everything have to be a forum for atheistic spewings?

    October 21, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  19. Hector Sanchez

    If he was in the military, then he is a baby killer. That makes the dog a baby killer too. Thank you and God bless.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  20. bob

    How stupid is this???? Logical human beings think a dog "says grace". Here's what the dog is doing....I'm pleasing my master, he used to give me food after I do this. That's that you bunch of religious zombies morons.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:31 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.