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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. Richard

    All hail aqua-buddha

    October 21, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  2. Raj Nair

    My husband and I watched this video through Animal Purina on Yahoo videos. We were awestruck. Djiango is such a sweet dog and to think that he was to be euthanized gives me the creep. I have been a strong supporter of 'No-euthanasia' for animals and believe that we as humans do it just because we CAN NOT understand animal psychology. I am an avid dog-lover and have adopted a 11-yr old Beagle. Every day we can't wait to get back home and be with her. I think I understand the bond between Steven and Djiango. Keep it up and keep loving each other both of you!

    October 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  3. Mahyar z

    this is so beautiful

    October 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  4. ib42

    If my dog, Neil Diamond, Beethoven, Bach, countless good Muslim, Hindu, Buddhists, Nicole Kidman, Sharon Stone, Nargis, Madhubala, Mohamad Rafi, Talat Mehmood, Christopher Hitchens, billions of unbaptized children and babies, and my neighbour's cat are hell bound, that's where I'd rather be.
    Don't you dare pray I'll be saved from that pleasant place.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  5. Richard

    A silly example of faith intervening in a pavlovian response to food, if anyone believes this to be an example of GOD at work then they need to be examined. This is a therapy animal responding to food nothing more or less.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  6. Zaidi Ademeit

    ENOUGH ALREADY!!! Jon Stewart has put it all into perspective: FOX is a political organization, doing a very good job and advocating mendacity and misinformation, and CNN is Comedy News Network blithely engaged in wasting tremendous on mindless entertainment, and when serious, perfecting the art of political and social ambiguity.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  7. chad

    Man teaches dog to "say" grace, the dog didn't say anything. This is the stupidist video I have ever seen, total waste of time.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
    • Joyce Folmar

      It was a total waste of my time reading your two stupid sentences. So I thought I would let you know, and you can waste some more time reading what I thought.

      November 5, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  8. Jackie

    Hmm, I'm a little bothered by the fact that a dying man went to the shelter to get a dog- knowing he couldn't care for it.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
    • Deej

      I think the story said that he went to walk dogs as a way to give some of himself and he and the dog bonded. the dog was to be put down the next day. I think he had hope that he could give it a place to live and it seems to have worked out well.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  9. Skeptic

    Amazing! The dog can say its prayer, and it's in English too. But who's that dog that listens to the dog that prays?

    October 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
  10. daniel Genowskie

    everyone talking about god and the guys illness, youre all missing the Entire point. The truth, bartledoo, lies in the 5th sentence of this article. BartleDoo.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  11. Britney

    I have an Australian Cattle Dog as well and they really are an amazing and intelligent breed. Although I'm not a religious person, I really enjoyed this article and wish the two of the health and happiness.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  12. anon

    I believe in God. But just because something may or may not be true doesn't mean you can't believe in it. Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the very things we need to believe in the most. Like money and power mean nothing. Truth will win out. Or true love never fails.

    These, and belief in God are the things mankind needs to believe in the most.

    Besides, organized religion is NOT necessarily the problem. By saying that, it's too broad. ISLAM, or more specifically, RADICAL ISLAM, is the problem. There are literally millions of these radicals in the world right now plotting our deaths. I can count on one hand, with fingers to spare, Christians who have bombed buildings or flown planes into buildings. (McVeigh doesn't count as he was an ATHEIST.)

    October 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
    • Frank

      We really don't need the Islam-bashing.
      Boy, has the spirit of this article been lost. Leave it to man to take something beautiful and uplifting and ruin it.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  13. Seb

    the truth is there is only ONE WAY to Look at this, and this is, BartleDoo.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  14. bartledoo

    i think this dog is pretty cool and all, but comme onn people. Bartledoo, or bartledont?? Bartledoo.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
  15. Kate

    This is not the place to question the faith of anyone. If you do, you're a mean-spirited loser, and probably in need of some spiritual direction yourself. I'm not a Christian, and I still think this is a wonderful story. You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate it. You do, however, have to be cynical and lost to make negative comments.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
    • Frank

      Agreed. Some people are so stony-hearted, cold and bitter that they can't see the good in anything. So the man believes that God told him not to commit suicide. What's wrong with that? Would you rather he killed himself?
      I wouldn't care if it was a story about a Wiccan talking about how the Goddess saved her from suicide. If it keeps you alive, what's so horrible about it? I have to deal with suicidal ideation myself so I certainly know what it's like to need something or someone to save you.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
    • David Johnson

      It is a great story. I am happy for man and dog. But, I don't think it is mean or evil to say I don't think the fellow heard the voice of god. Sorry.

      October 21, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @David Johnson

      You should have just said that tiny sentence in the first place. You have rubbed all the skin off of them, I think. Don't worry, the rest of us still like you. But you knew that. And I hope you can think of some more jokes. I have grown too serious.

      @Frank

      Cold and bitter is the universe, and cruel is human behavior, yet I would love everyone anyway, believing that no one has ever really had a choice about what they do or their existence. But I could be wrong. :O

      Live a sensitive life being abused and seeing always the depths of human cruelty and you, too, might be stony-hearted as a way of preserving one's inner being even as you seek to reach out to others to help those like yourself...yet the hardness is a shell, as our loved ones know.

      Do not lump us all together, Frank, for we are individuals like yourself. If I can perceive more evil than you, pity me for this unwelcome gift, and ask God why he gave this to me. All I want to do is fight evil. Wherever it may be found.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @Frank
      ...or rather don't pity me for having this gift, but pity those who do evil. I might see what they are doing and point it out, but even if I don't, what they are doing remains evil. I am sometimes glad that I can see....

      October 22, 2010 at 7:08 am |
  16. bartledoo

    this dog seems pretty coool and ill but, come on pplll. BartleDoo?

    October 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
  17. donna

    even a dog knows how to pray,what about you

    October 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Dogs are smart enough to know prayer does not work.

      The dog is just doing what it has been trained to do.

      October 21, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  18. From Alaska

    Steven, Thank you for your service to our country. I come from a long line of warriors and more recently have served in the armed services. Thank you very much. Your story deeply touched my heart and compelled me to write. Alaska has the highest rate of suicide and has touched so many. Stay strong and give your dog a big hello from Alaska.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  19. 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 5:41 pm |
  20. Joe Mahma

    Man... people are stupid.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:41 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.