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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. wa2go

    All these comments remind me of the dyslexic agnostic insomniac who stayed up all night long wondering if there really was a dog.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  2. Kenny

    Read 'Dog' backwards and what do you get? God!

    October 21, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  3. Kace

    Dogs are the best. And I'm truly glad this guy found such a wonderful companion. But of all the Stupid Pet Tricks I've seen, this is the stupidest.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  4. momof2

    I truly believe animals dooo have a soul....why wouldn't they...amazing creatures who have personally saved family members...My youngest daughter, who has type 1 Diabetes, went extremly low with her blood sugar one night...the love of her life, her Yorkie, named Joy..came to our bedroom and barked and scratched on our door...we opened it, and she ran to our daughters room...we found her, almost comatose...she saved her life!

    October 21, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  5. Eric

    First off I want to say I think this is a nice inspiring story about the relationship a person and their dog can have.

    Second, as I read these comments I can't help but think this is the reason why wars are fought. It is because people of different religions cannot respect each other. People, show some respect to each other.

    I see that many people are upset with some of the things that David Johnson is saying. He said "if god exists, prove it!" That is a very simple explanation to a very complicated subject. Obviously no one has the proof he is looking for, like some device or relic that would point out gods location. The proof he seeks is something that would convince himself that god exists. That is not something that anyone can give him but he has to discover himself. It is a pointless debate to convince him otherwise. I do have one bit of advice for David. Just because you can't see, hear, feel, smell, or taste it, that doesn't mean it's not there.

    We all think we have it all figured out, how the world and god works. I think this is where the hostility comes from in people. This "I am right and you are wrong" mentality. What if I told you that all that you know of this world is what an ant knows to his back yard? That our knowledge of the world is just a grain of sand in the dessert? Would you feel as hostile to your fellow man that doesn't believe the same things you do? Of course not, it would be like ant fighting another ant where the rain comes from. Try not to assume that we know everything.

    My point here people is we can all agree to disagree and claim that "we" are really the ones going to heaven, or hell, but just remember that we all gods children, even the ones who don't believe, and we should treat people exactly the same way we want to be treated. I pray to God for the safety for you all and your children, in Jesus name amen.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Eric

      You said, "I do have one bit of advice for David. Just because you can't see, hear, feel, smell, or taste it, that doesn't mean it's not there."

      You are doing argument from ignorance, an informal logical fallacy.

      Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This should not be taken to mean that you can never possess evidence that something does not exist.

      "In some circ_umstances it can be safely assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such circ_umstances it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its non-occurrence." (Introduction to Logic, Copi, 1953, Page 95)

      Your advice is poor Eric. Cheers!

      October 22, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  6. Eric

    First off I want to say I think this is a nice inspiring story about the relationship a person and their dog can have.

    Second, as I read these comments I can't help but think this is the reason why wars are fought. It is because people of different religions cannot respect each other. People, show some respect to each other.

    I see that many people are upset with some of the things that David Johnson is saying. He said "if god exists, prove it!" That is a very simple explanation to a very complicated subject. Obviously no one has the proof he is looking for, like some device or relic that would point out gods location. The proof he seeks is something that would convince himself that god exists. That is not something that anyone can give him but he has to discover himself. It is a pointless debate to convince him otherwise. I do have one bit of advice for David. Just because you can't see, hear, feel, smell, or taste it, that doesn't mean it's not there.

    We all think we have it all figured out, how the world and god works. I think this is where the hostility comes from in people. This "I am right and you are wrong" mentality. What if I told you that all that you know of this world is what an ant knows to his back yard? That our knowledge of the world is just a grain of sand in the dessert? Would you feel as hostile to your fellow man that doesn't believe the same things you do? Of course not, it would be like ant fighting another ant where the rain comes from. Try not to assume that we know everything.

    My point here people is we can all agree to disagree and claim that "we" are really the ones going to heaven, or hell, but just remember that we all gods children, even the ones who don't believe, and we should treat people exactly the same way we want to be treated. I pray to God for the safety for you all and your children, in Jesus name amen.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
    • Michelle

      I agree with you in regards to people having respect for others beliefs. I have to say, the people who are getting upset, need to "ignore" the ignorance! That is what those type of individuals feed off of, a response.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  7. MalePoster

    God bless both of 'em!!

    October 21, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
  8. PARROT

    GOD CREATED US...ALL THE LIVING THINGS ON EARTH AT THE SAME TIME!!....AMEN!!

    October 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  9. Dr. M

    Here's the deal. The existence of God cannot be proven. Ever. If it could be proven, everyone would be forced to believe that He exists. But God (if he exists) is not in the forcing business. He gives us free choice. We are free to believe what we want. By definition, It can never be proven that God exists.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Dr. M

      You said, "By definition, It can never be proven that God exists."

      By definition? If Jesus hovered over the United Nations building, that would prove it. If a mountain really did float from one spot to another, that would prove it. Your statement is false.

      October 22, 2010 at 10:26 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Dr. M

      You most certainly can prove a positive with evidence. You are confused about proving a negative. You can't prove a negative.

      Happy trails!

      October 22, 2010 at 10:29 am |
  10. Jules

    So, I'm not the only one who's wandered into the local animal shelter looking for comfort on a bad day. Same way I got my girl, who, yep, was about to be put down. Though my story's not life threatening or dramatic, there are similarities. I went to the shelter thinking I would just look through the window. It was late after a very bad day and I assumed they were closed. To my surprise they were open, and the man asked me to look at the dogs. I told him I lived is a condo and they wouldn't be happy, but I'd play with them for a time. My girl is a VERY high energy dog that knocks down everything in sight. She'd already been in the shelter twice. When he brought her out, she wouldn't play, she just leaned against my leg and wouldn't leave. What was I gonna do? But the, it turns out, she was very very active and I had her start praying with me just to teach her to calm down. But she was never a "cuddle" dog. Very independent. Thenone night she suddenly curled up in my chest one night and wouldn't leave I knew something was wrong. Turns out I was going into pheumonia and didn't even know it. She now also knows how to act goofy to calm me down I get worried, and puts her head on my shoulder if I start to get "road rage" in heavy traffic. I wouldn't trade her for anything.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  11. Scott

    To all the 'fundamental atheists' who troll these boards, Do you not realize that you are practicing 'reverse discrimination/prejudice' and doing the same things you proclaim to hate in 'fundies? You are your own fundie. Kinda like when someone wise once said Judge not lest you be judged for with the same judgment that you judge others you yourself will be judged. Just leave the nice story alone and troll one another's anti-Christian websites and protect your image a little? But then this is the 'new atheist' of today not the- dare we call them 'liberal atheists' -of yesteryear like Paul Kurtz who was ousted out as chairman of the Center for Inquiry. Guess the fundies are taking over atheism and infecting these boards as well. Just let the story be told without feeling a need to exercise the inner sinner within.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
  12. TheNewNorm

    It's easy to not believe in God because if you don't in fact believe in him you don't have to follow his rules. Rules being commandments that would otherwise send you to hell if you didn't. So therefore not believing in God is convenient and you can do whatever you please. Now if anything ever sounded cowardly it would be this instance.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
  13. LiberateUs

    the world needs less atheist fundamentalists

    October 21, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  14. fox

    Such a sweet story... I thank god for my lovng wie

    October 21, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  15. firewall

    Yesterday a kitten died. Alone, in the rain. It's mom still comes and cries where it died, looking for it. It was the one left out of many.

    If you see god, tell him to suck my dick. He knows who I am.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  16. Amy

    Incredibly cute 🙂

    October 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  17. Dick

    D-Bo, life does have meaning to an atheist. Perhaps, depending on the individual of course, more meaning to an athiest than to a firm believer. Sure you may be on your best behavior all the time because you think youre being watched and thats great, but athiests believe that the time they have on this earth (from the moment their heart starts to beat until the moment it stops) is the only time that they have. So make the most of it. Athiests criticize believers on blogs like this because there is no proof of god, it seems to be a pretty ridiculous thing to believe in, we are in the 21st century, and because athiests dont fully understand how any educated person does believe in god. If you tried to convince me god exists, right now, what could you possibly say? Trust me,, he exists! I just know it!.. ? not trying to be rude, sorry

    October 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
    • D-Bo

      Dick, help me understand. To the atheist, we are cosmic accidents, so how can there be "meaning?" If there is no God, there is no meaning before the big bang and there will be no meaning a trillian billion years from now either. Why do you think you have significance in the cosmos all of the sudden? You said you "make the most of this life." Please, enlighten us on what "making the most of life" means. If I were an atheist, randomly flying through space without purpose, why wouldn't I just live to please myself? I would care less about stepping on anyone that gets in my way of my will. Remember, if there is no God, then there is no objective right or wrong....just your ideas versus mine. I know of a country that tried to live like that....it worked out great for them (sarcasm).

      October 21, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @D-Bo
      You said, "To the atheist, we are cosmic accidents, so how can there be "meaning?" If there is no God, there is no meaning before the big bang and there will be no meaning a trillian billion years from now either. "

      D-Bo, if you understand that atheists think we are cosmic accidents, then how could you ask such a question? There is no meaning. Just because you want there to be meaning, doesn't make it so. Just because fundies want everything to be a miracle, doesn't make it so. There is NO meaning. Enjoy your 80 or 90 years. You will never exist again. Cheers!

      October 21, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
    • D-Bo

      @David Johnson
      Thank you for admitting that atheists believe there is no such thing as meaning. You wouldn't believe how many times I have to tell you all that an atheist can't believe in personal meaning or purpose yet they continually try to tell me they are significant. So my question, like Stu, comes to you now. Why are you on a belief blog pretenting that what you have to say means anything? Your whole being, existence, thoughts, and ideas are insignificant and pointless as an atheist. Why try to enjoy 80 or 90 years if not even 1 second of your existence is significant? What is 90 years next to an infinity of pointlessness? Yet here you are.....I'll say if for you, you're not an atheist....you're agnostic and you're searching for meaning. Your soul is crying out for purpose. Keep searching brother and I'll gve you a hint, it leads to God at the end of the tunnel. He's the only one that can give you value.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @D-Bo

      I'm not sure what you are trying to make of this. I did not say I won't try to enjoy my 80 or 90 years of life. I will live on through my children and loved ones. Life! We should celebrate every day of it. If this is all we get, then every second becomes that much more precious. Cheers!

      October 21, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @D-Bo

      Another note: I read your comment to Dick. You seem to be accusing atheists of lacking morals (stepping on others), because they don't see the meaning of life through your religious eyes. That is not this conversation. It is an argument without merit.

      Morality does not come from god. Cheers!

      October 22, 2010 at 10:21 am |
    • D-Bo

      @David Johnson
      If you are calling life "precious" then you are assigning value to life. An atheist doesn't believe in value because he has no meaning in the cosmos. How can David Johnson have value in an infinite abyss of pointlessness? You're making fun of people who believe in God for having faith in him yet you have faith that your life is "precious" and worth enjoying for 80 or 90 years. Do you see your hypocrisy here? Furthermore, you said I made the mistake of thinking atheists aren't moral people (or something like that). Who's morality do you have? If you believe there is no objective standpoint of morality (ie...God), then it's your morality versus mine and neither means anything because there is no point to life for cosmic accidents. Kant had the same problem, he said that if morality exists, a perfect moral judge would have to exist. I would agree with him.

      October 22, 2010 at 11:00 am |
    • David Johnson

      @D-Bo

      You said, "If you are calling life "precious" then you are assigning value to life. An atheist doesn't believe in value because he has no meaning in the cosmos. How can David Johnson have value in an infinite abyss of pointlessness? You're making fun of people who believe in God for having faith in him yet you have faith that your life is "precious" and worth enjoying for 80 or 90 years. Do you see your hypocrisy here? "

      Several times, in several posts, I have stated that life is precious in that it is limited. That is not based on faith. Being born and dying is evidence for a finite life. Yes? I believe I told you to enjoy your time here. That is not inconsistent with not believing in a higher meaning. Not believing in god's great plan, or objective morality.

      You asked, "Who's morality do you have? If you believe there is no objective standpoint of morality (ie...God)"

      There are no set rules for behavior that cannot be changed. No objective morality. All morality is relative. Subjective.

      Our morals evolved along with our intellect. It was part of the survival of our species. We learn our morals from our parents. Society stamps every individual with its concepts. If you were born in U. S., you have many Christian concepts whether you are religious or not. The people of Iran have Muslim concepts.

      Nothing is always right or always wrong. War, killing, is wrong, but if you have a Hitler in the world, it is not as wrong as allowing him to continue killing. Abortion is wrong. But it is less wrong than giving birth to a baby conceived in in_cest or ra_pe. Or to a mother who has no means to provide for it.

      Society must decide what they will allow and not allow, based on an action"s effect on society. Gay marriage has no bad effect on society. It should be allowed. Murder has a very negative impact on society. It should not be allowed.

      Notice how god is not needed for any of these decisions?

      You said, "Kant had the same problem, he said that if morality exists, a perfect moral judge would have to exist. I would agree with him."

      Yes, I could tell that from reading your posts, as I answered others. Every event must have a cause, and causation must be according to objective morals.

      There are many criticisms of Kantian ethics. They just don't hold up to reality. See my explanation of RELATIVE MORALITY above.

      Happy Trails!

      Furthermore, you said I made the mistake of thinking atheists aren't moral people (or something like that). Who's morality do you have? If you believe there is no objective standpoint of morality (ie...God), then it's your morality versus mine and neither means anything because there is no point to life for cosmic accidents. Kant had the same problem, he said that if morality exists, a perfect moral judge would have to exist. I would agree with him.

      October 22, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  18. Observant

    Love this video. We have to do something to make a better life for Steven. Hey, over there in Austin! Can't you doctors do something to help out a vet?!?!? I hope to read where someone stepped up and made a difference in his health. Hang in there, Steven, and Djaingo, you are proof that there are dogs in heaven!

    October 21, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
  19. cee

    well duh, it took this story for you to figure out how significant dogs really are?

    Thank God for my canine pals.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  20. Zaidi Ademeit

    ENOUGH WITH THE DOG STORIES! Jon Stewart is right!! FOX is not a news medium–it's a political organization, and doing a very good job at dispensing mendacity and misinformation, while CNN (Comedy News Network) is blithely engaged in wasting tremendous resources on praying dogs, and when it gets serious, perfecting the art of political and social ambiguity.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
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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.