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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. Christopher D'Emilio

    Okay, that's "news" I guess... but FRONT PAGE TOP NEWS?!?!? Have we all lost our minds? Fox... I mean, CNN... Get a grip.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Kate

      Yes. A story of survival and redemption regarding one of our veterans is front page news. Can you be any more cynical? Just enjoy it. It's a nice story.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
  2. Truth

    AMEN!!

    God bless you, brother Steven Boyd..

    October 21, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  3. David Johnson

    Well, my work is done here for now. I can feel the Christian love! Be back later this evening. Heading home now!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  4. Frank

    This is a wonderful story. God has His ways of reaching us all, sometimes seemingly small or big. This is the kind of story we need more of.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
  5. Chrissy in Tampa Bay

    Epic Thanks Tampa Bay is being held on Nov. 19th to celebrate all we are thankful for and to honor our winning 2010 Changemaker and 4 finalists as voted on by the community last month. Our winning Changemaker this year is Mike Halley and Halley's K9's for Veterans. He too is a disabled veteran and he started a kennel to train service companions for disabled vets suffering from "invisible disabilities" like PTSD and Brain injury. He trains shelter dogs and those "donated" to him to avoid the shelter, then gives them, for free, to the disabled veterans! The receiving veterans even stay at his facility for a few days to train together with their new companion so they can learn how to be a team. He does this with the funds he gets from his own disability checks and donations received from friends. -obviously worthy of being named this year's 2010 Epic Thanks Tampa Bay Changemaker. His goal is to do more though, and that is where we help.

    The fundraising event, called Epic Thanks Tampa Bay, is being held to raise money and awareness for Halley's K9's for Veterans and Epic Change. To support Mike's organization, we are having a big event; food, bands, raffles, silent auction, etc. We are selling tickets to the event and also looking for sponsors and those willing to donate silent auction items...all to raise money and awareness. (we are a 501c)

    Seeing this story just reiterates how amazing it is for a disabled veteran to be able to get a dog that can help them overcome their challenges and lead a much better life. And the vet gets to save the life of a needy dog too! (Imagine if we could raise enough to help him to open multiple locations throughout the country?!)

    To find out more, please go to www epicthankstampabay dot com. We would gladly welcome any donations, as the more we can raise, the more help Mike can do for our deserving vets who gave so much for us!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  6. Chrissy in Tampa Bay

    Its a feel good story folks. No need to turn it into an argument over the existence of God or not. Feel happy for the veteran who needed this dog, and the dog that needed to be saved.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  7. GreatAtheistHope

    Rational arguments do not work against religiarchal positions for many reasons. For one, religiarchal positions do not originate in reason. For another, the religiarchy has a built in mechanism, faith, for rejecting any reasoned claim which conflicts with the dominant religiarchal paradigm.

    Due to this complete insensitivity to this oppressed areligious minority's methodology, reliarchal claims, unlike other dominant modes of discourse, cannot be overturned except utlizing the mode of discourse within which they originate.

    This is why I'd like to point out the absolute abyssmal horror of a God who preaches through dog tricks on the internet. The methods of this God are cruel, distant, passive aggressive, mocking. The would be a being, not to be worshipped, but to be given the number of a local therapist.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • D-Bo

      Haha. You're funny GreatAtheistHope. The philosophies behind ontology, epistemology, metaphysics, origins, and apologetics all require logic and reason. A self-existant eternal being is not an irrational idea as it violates no laws of logic or reason. You however, would prefer us to believe than the universe came out of an uncaused effect (a logical fallacy) and then claim that people who believe in an intelligent designer are the crazy ones. haha. Oh, and atheists believe they ultimately have no meaning in the universe....so why are you here trying to make "meaningful" comments?

      October 22, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  8. Chrissy in Tampa Bay

    Epic Thanks Tampa Bay is being held on Nov. 19th to celebrate all we are thankful for and to honor our winning 2010 Changemaker and 4 finalists as voted on by the community last month. Our winning Changemaker this year is Mike Halley and Halley's K9's for Veterans. He too is a disabled veteran and he started a kennel to train service companions for disabled vets suffering from "invisible disabilities" like PTSD and Brain injury. He trains shelter dogs and those "donated" to him to avoid the shelter, then gives them, for free, to the disabled veterans! The receiving veterans even stay at his facility for a few days to train together with their new companion so they can learn how to be a team. He does this with the funds he gets from his own disability checks and donations received from friends. -obviously worthy of being named this year's 2010 Epic Thanks Tampa Bay Changemaker. His goal is to do more though, and that is where we help.
    The fundraising event, called Epic Thanks Tampa Bay, is being held to raise money and awareness for Halley's K9's for Veterans and Epic Change. To support Mike's organization, we are having a big event; food, bands, raffles, silent auction, etc. We are selling tickets to the event and also looking for sponsors and those willing to donate silent auction items...all to raise money and awareness. (we are a 501c)
    Seeing this story just reiterates how amazing it is for a disabled veteran to be able to get a dog that can help them overcome their challenges and lead a much better life. And the vet gets to save the life of a needy dog too! (Imagine if we could raise enough to help him to open multiple locations throughout the country?!)
    To find out more, please go to www epicthankstampabay dot com. We would gladly welcome any donations, as the more we can raise, the more help Mike can do for our deserving vets who gave so much for us! God Bless.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  9. Jim

    Wow! Unreal comments, I enjoyed the story behind the whole video.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  10. Alcatraz51

    I am a very happy atheist and when I read this story I simply thought it was incredibly sweet. I dont care what people turn to when they need help as long as it is something kind and something that makes them happy. This is exactly that. Just dont push your beliefs on people who dont need them. Just be gracious happy and kind. The world is better when both sides of this argument get along and respect each others beliefs.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
  11. mary

    Miserable little creeps..Every one of these boys thinks they are going to get out of it easy because they are "kids"...It makes me sick..
    I grew up in a notorious crime area, and I can tell you kids this age rely on all the laws that are made to protect kids from getting harsh punishments. They knew exactly what they were doing..And what the consequences were.
    They never worried about life in prison or the death penalty or years and years in jail.. They knew being kids would stop that from happening.
    Mike Brewer got a life sentence . He fortunately wasn't burned as bad as he could have been.. But that shouldn't matter when they are sentenced.. What should matter is how bad it could have been, because it was no thanks to them it didn't turn out that way.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • mary

      Sorry..Don't know how this happened I was commenting on the Mike brewer video...

      October 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  12. wolfmama

    The funny part about this is that this thread has become the "Why We Dislike David Johnson" thread. Part of believing in God is faith. Feel free to question my faith, make fun of it, critique it and tear it apart. I don't care, frankly. I can't prove to any of you that God exists, but you most certainly cannot prove to me that He doesn't. Your arguments strengthen me, and I thank you for that. I will always choose to put my trust in God, and while I can't deny that reading some of the inflamitory drivel is upsetting, I also realize that what I believe does not infringe on anyone else. So bottom line, this was a sweet story of a man who found a loyal pet to help him through a difficult time. And this man puts his faith in God. How, possibly, could that threaten those of you who are so full of anger and hate?

    October 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @wolfmama

      You said, "I can't prove to any of you that God exists, but you most certainly cannot prove to me that He doesn't."

      That is true. I can't prove a negative. I can't prove their is no god.

      I also can't prove there is no Santa Claus. But I bet you would not take exception to me saying, "There is no Santa."

      We decide if something exists or not, based on a preponderance of the evidence. There is much evidence indicating god does not exist. There is no evidence indicating he does. This is also true of Santa. And you don't believe in Santa right?

      You said, "this man puts his faith in God. How, possibly, could that threaten those of you who are so full of anger and hate?"

      I am happy that this fellow rescued the dog, and is now happy. If religion gives him comfort, that is awesome!

      The only thing I take exception to, is the statement that he heard the literal voice of god. It is an extraordinary claim. There are ~one million suicides a year, worldwide. Evidently, none of these hear the voice of god.

      It would be refreshing, if a single believer would say, "It is a wonderful story, but I have have some reservations about his hearing the voice of god."

      Happy Trails!

      October 22, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  13. Chrissy in Tampa Bay

    Epic Thanks Tampa Bay is being held on Nov. 19th to celebrate all we are thankful for and to honor our winning 2010 Changemaker and 4 finalists as voted on by the community last month. Our winning Changemaker this year is Mike Halley and Halley's K9's for Veterans. He too is a disabled veteran and he started a kennel to train service companions for disabled vets suffering from "invisible disabilities" like PTSD and Brain injury. He trains shelter dogs and those "donated" to him to avoid the shelter, then gives them, for free, to the disabled veterans! The receiving veterans even stay at his facility for a few days to train together with their new companion so they can learn how to be a team. He does this with the funds he gets from his own disability checks and donations received from friends. -obviously worthy of being named this year's 2010 Epic Thanks Tampa Bay Changemaker. His goal is to do more though, and that is where we help.
    The fundraising event, called Epic Thanks Tampa Bay, is being held to raise money and awareness for Halley's K9's for Veterans and Epic Change. To support Mike's organization, we are having a big event; food, bands, raffles, silent auction, etc. We are selling tickets to the event and also looking for sponsors and those willing to donate silent auction items...all to raise money and awareness. (we are a 501c)
    Seeing this story just reiterates how amazing it is for a disabled veteran to be able to get a dog that can help them overcome their challenges and lead a much better life. And the vet gets to save the life of a needy dog too! (Imagine if we could raise enough to help him to open multiple locations throughout the country?!)
    To find out more, please go to www epicthankstampabay dot com. We would gladly welcome any donations, as the more we can raise, the more help Mike can do for our deserving vets who gave so much for us! God Bless.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  14. TW

    @MJ: The earth was proved round not by science, but by SAILORS.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  15. Mar

    What an odedient pooch

    October 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  16. GMartin

    Ahh yes. Finally, christianity is for dogs. I personally believe rodents are christian as well, but considering christianity began as a belief system for slaves and idiots I think it's finally risen to it's apogee. and it only took two thousand years.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  17. MAN

    One smart pooch

    October 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  18. Eric

    Ryan, someday the earth will be filled with this stories Ryan, when all lies, all liars, and all who are unthankful will have been removed from this planet And dont say this is unjust, since all those who had a pleasure in the getting rid of prayers first, then churches and then christians will receive their just reward. I pray to God, you will not be amongst them,

    October 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
    • David Johnson

      People have been saying that for 2000 years and counting.

      Jesus predicted he would be back in the first century. He is 19 centuries late.

      It must be frustrating. It must be like waiting for a Santa Claus, that never comes. Santa is a myth to.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  19. joey navy

    Ya know.....this is one great video....why don't you religious fanatics just relax and enjoy the video for what it is.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  20. joey navy

    I am not a religious person, however, this is just awesome, truly awesome.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:59 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.