My husband is a cat person, which means that he grumbles whenever the dogs in our neighborhood howl over every siren or bark at every squirrel. So when we watched the video of a dog who says grace, I expected him to barf or maybe roll his eyes. Nope, the video generated a good chuckle before we read the rest of the story on CNN.
We could all whine about how a story about a dog praying doesn’t deserve 1,300 words, how the piece could have been organized better, maybe it could have included fewer cliches, but let’s look at the story’s good parts for a minute. Instead of just posting a video to generate clicks, CNN actually found a touching story behind Steven Boyd and his prayerful dog.
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.
Yes, Boyd found the dog, but it wasn’t pure bliss after that.
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.
I don’t want to be Debbie Downer, but maybe I’d like to know what kind of church that CNN says he’s “involved in” and attends Bible studies. Back to the dog, he created the video as a Christmas gift to his mother.
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.
Besides, let’s consider the story’s fluffy competition. Last I checked, the other headlines at cnn.com were: “Tattooed man squirts ink into his eyeballs,” “HAPPY CAPS LOCK DAY” and “Cheerleader out after Facebook pic.”
So if you’re going to do a heart-warming story for the weekend, might as well include a dog, military wounds and prayer. Animals, health, and religion create a pretty good combination.