My Dog, the Madonna

In her latest book, "Mystical Dogs," Jean Houston shares the story of her first spiritual experience. Dr. Houston expanded on this story in a conversation with Beliefnet. At this point in her life, age six, Ms. Houston lives with her family in a Sicilian section of Brooklyn. Her dog Chickie, "a wonderful mix of Welsh corgi and bearded collie," is using an empty closet as a nest for a new litter of eight pups.

My mother was a Sicilian Catholic with leanings toward Christian Science, and my father was an agnostic Baptist. My father was a comedy writer, and he had to become a Catholic in order to marry my Sicilian Catholic mother. So he'd met with the young priest and they traded jokes and theology, until the priest finally said, "Well, Jack, you're just a natural-born pagan. I'm going to give you a learner's permit, so you can get married. But any kid comes along, you have to send him to Catholic school. My father said, "Sure, sure, sure."

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The year I was five, my father was kicked off the Bob Hope Show, for the excess of high spirits. He probably played a practical joke on Hope; he was given to those things.

So I was sent to Catholic school and [with more time on his hands] my father gave me these interesting questions to ask the nun every morning. And she was getting more and more shocked and finally, when I asked if Jesus ever had to go to the bathroom, she began to scream at me. I remember she lisped very badly and she yelled, "Sacrilish, sacrilish, blashphlemy and sacrilish!" She wrote on this great big sheet of cardboard "Jean Houston's Years in Purgatory" and every time I asked a question, "Sacrilish!" and out came another 100,000 years. By the time I turned six I had 300 million years of purgatory.

So I went home and I told my father who got hysterical laughing. And he threw me on his shoulders and he ran past the Sicilian neighbors who were all throwing up their windows saying (Italian accent) "There goes a-crazy Jack! Watch out you'll kill a-bambino!"

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Jean Houston
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