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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. Mdelared

    I'm just glad he rescued the dog.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  2. GONGODEAN

    GONGODEAN PU LU C BAGUMBA!

    October 21, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  3. DWT

    It's interesting how few replies there are on this thread. People just have their say and move on.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  4. DWT

    Shows good things about dogs and bad things about humans...

    October 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  5. Chris From CT

    This is a prime example of the srength of the human spirit and the will to survive. It also shows that special ESP between man's best friend and his master. Let us never loose sight however, of the need to support and take better care of our veterans. I'm glad the dog came through, but our government owes this guy a little more. We should start by giving vets the health care plans that our elected officials in Congress get!

    October 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
    • David Johnson

      You said, "It also shows that special ESP between man's best friend and his master."

      How on earth does this show ESP between dogs and people?

      The guy admits he trained the dog to do that. He doesn't control the animal with his mind. Sheesh!

      October 21, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
  6. Ryan

    Mark, my point was this: cnn.com used to report news stories, based on facts and research. More and more, it's been featuring stories that belong in Woman's Day Magazine or some "soft" publication. This story is not news.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  7. Nancy

    CNN should have showed some editorial "control" and made it impossible to comment on this story. Most of them ruined a really touching story.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Why, because you wanted to pretend god talked to the guy? LOL

      October 21, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  8. Robert

    Here goes the liberal media ignoring God again, right on the front page no less.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • David Johnson

      God should be ignored. He doesn't exist.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
  9. Miss Miri

    I never understand why people hate the fact that others want to believe in God. Why come on a FAITH blog, read the story and proceed to pick apart everyone who wants to believe in God and in Jesus? You volintarly came to this story, no one was beating you over the head with it. If you want to think it is crazy to have blind faith, fine, but do not for one second think that you are convicing true believers that your lgoic places a shred of doubt.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Miss Miri

      You said, "do not for one second think that you are convicing true believers that your lgoic places a shred of doubt."

      I'm well aware and have stated such many times, that I am not going to sway a true fundie. I am actually targeting people who are on the fence. I want these people to know all that is said about religion is not true. That there really are no miracles. That prayer does not work. If a person listens only to fundies, they would get the impression that Jesus/god is real, with lots of evidence to prove it. That is simply not true. There is more evidence indicating god is not real than that he is.

      Without faith, god evaporates like an ice cube on a hot griddle.

      Happy Trails!

      October 22, 2010 at 9:35 am |
  10. Spence

    I continue to see examples where a dog improves a person's life, enriches and makes those of us lucky to own one, better people.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  11. Sunshine

    That was an amazing story of what God can do in your life. Have faith and lean not to your own understanding. Good things come from God. Evil things come from Satan. We are also given trials sometimes to strengthen our faith and make us into who God wants us to be. It's may be part of His plan. We are not to question but instead have faith and trust in the Lord. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
    In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

    October 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  12. Reality

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

    October 21, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  13. CW

    Why can't you just say "What a nice video" Why must everyone start throwing stones at each other. It's a touching story whether you believe in God or not. Say something nice, or just shut up.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  14. MJ

    Science proves the answer with physical evidence. The earth was believed to be flat, we now know from science that is round. Physical evidence supports this hypothesis. The Koran says fresh water and salt water cannot mix. Physical evidence proves that they can be mixed.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
  15. V Saxena

    Oh I LOVE THAT! What a smart owner and equally smart dog!

    PS – I'm agnostic, but who cares? It's a fun story. So shut up with all the religious bickering. Go discuss it on the Pastor Schlong story page instead.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  16. Eric

    The steps of the scientific method are to:
    • Ask a Question – Is David Johnson an anti-religion troll?
    • Do Background Research – I've read most of his posts.
    • Construct a Hypothesis – Seems very troll-like.
    • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment – Ah, I see that he is still in the act of trolling.
    • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion – He's a troll!!
    • Communicate Your Results – Hey everyone! David Johnson is an anti-religion troll.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  17. Eric

    Oh PLEASE! God....Dog. About the same intelligence, lifespan and relevance.
    CNN, got any real NEWS to post ?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  18. TM

    I am just going to say that it is truly a blessing to see and here this story. Things happen everyday for a reason. God is watching and knows all that is upon us. There may be alot of people that don't agree with that but they wouldn't feel the need to comment if they were 100% positive in what they don't believe. God Bless everyone and I am praying for everyone in this blog. The Lord is coming soon and there is no time for us to sit and bicker about what someone else does or does not believe.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
  19. S. Holbrook

    Is it possible anymore to just read a story and be moved by it as opposed to picking it to pieces and running off in all directions?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • Liz

      I agree! The point of the story is not if God is real or not, it's how a man and a dog can have a equally beneficial relationship. I hope the dude and his dog have a long, happy & healthy life together!

      October 25, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  20. Beth Swanson

    Thank you Steven for serving our country and I am so sorry that you have an illness. It isn't fair. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for having the strength and heart to put this video online. Thank you for caring for our shelter dogs and being persistent about rescuing Djaingo. Your story is so inspiring for so many reasons. You both are in our prayers. Much love to you and your family.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:24 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.