Freud & Dogs, Part 1: A Case of Late Life Puppy Love

Freud & Dogs, Part 1: A Case of Late Life Puppy Love

In December 2011, when I learned that the kosher butcher shop of my great uncle shared an address with the home and offices of Sigmund Freud, I was blogging regularly about pets at Will My Dog Hate Me.  Not surprisingly, I became interested in the question of how Freud felt about canine companions.

I discovered a wealth of information on the topic, which I incorporated into a series of blog posts. As a result of new information — including the discovery of one of Anna Freud’s poems to her father in the voice of her dog, Wolf — I’ve revised those posts a bit. You may be surprised to learn what a softie old Sigmund was when it came to dogs — and how they came into play (literally) during his therapy sessions.

Anna Freud gets a dog

According to an article in the London Guardian:

For over 70 years Sigmund Freud’s life was devoid of canine companionship, but all this changed when, in the mid-1920s, his 30-year-old daughter Anna, wanting a companion for her long solitary walks, became the owner of Wolf, a magnificent and intelligent German Shepherd.

Exposed to the joy of a dog for the first time, Freud fell wildly in love. So much so that in 1925 Anna, in a fit of jealous insecurity, wrote, “I did not give Papa a present for his birthday because there is no present suitable for the occasion. I brought only a picture of Wolf that I had made as a joke, because I always assert that he transferred his whole interest in me on to Wolf. He was very pleased with it.”

The picture of Wolf was still hanging in his office in 1938, when Freud was forced to depart Vienna. In the wonderful book of photographs taken just days before he left, Berggasse 19: Sigmund Freud’s Home and Offices, Vienna 1938, an explanatory note to the picture of a display case filled with Freud’s exotic artifacts reads:

Hanging on a bookcase to the left of the cabinet is a moving personal note among these impressive surroundings: a photograph of Anna Freud’s dog, “Wolf.” Miss Freud recalls that on each birthday, Freud would be presented with a celebratory poem from “Wolf,” which she had written in honor of the occasion.

Here’s an example of one of these poems, which Anna would attach to Wolf’s collar before sending him in to see her dad:

On account of the coming of much of the clan

A house ban

Now ‘gainst his normal demeanor and noise

Silently poised.

His love for the friendly as edible

As with sucked-up thermometers, immeasurable.

Thus kept from the banquet so nourishing and fair

He gets from the table scraps none of his share.

Unwavering true: ‘ spite of fleeting pleasure’s bite,

He withdraws, quite dog-like.

Perhaps something was lost in translation; the sentence referring to the “sucked-up thermometers,” for example, seems particularly odd. Does anyone have an idea of what it might mean?  Still, you get the general drift. (This is from the  introduction to Topsy: The Story of a Golden-Haired Chow, which I will discuss in more detail in a future post.)

Sigmund Freud gets a dog too

Sigmund Freud and Jofi/Yofi

In 1928, Dorothy Burlingame, a close friend of Anna, gave Freud his own dog, a chow named Lün-Yu. Sadly, Lün-Yu died 15 months later, having wandered off on a train station in Salzburg en route to Vienna and turning up dead on the tracks a few days later. Freud was devastated, and grieved for seven months before he was able to welcome Yofi, Lün-Yu’s sister, into his home.

As anyone who has seen a picture of Freud’s office knows, the father of psychoanalysis was fond of Middle Eastern and Asian tchotkes. It is therefore possible that he gave his first dog the name Lün-Yu after 論語, a collection of sayings attributed to Confucius (Note: Wikipedia is responsible if the ideogram reproduced here says something rude; I took it on faith that it refers to a collection of Confucian sayings.)

Thus it might be easy to mistake the name of Lün-Yu’s sibling for a similarly esoteric nod to Eastern religion. Not so, according to an article in the Forward magazine (which is primarily about Albert Einstein being a terrible sailor):

Freud had a dog named Yofi — or Jofi, as he would have spelled it in German, except that you won’t find Jofi in a good German dictionary…. Yofi does, however, mean “beauty” in Hebrew (in Israel today it’s a ubiquitous word meaning “great” or “terrific”), and there’s no doubt that Freud, who had a far better Hebrew and Jewish education as a boy than he generally cared to admit in later life, got it from there. Yofi was thus a Jewish dog.

He might have been a kosher dog too. We have seen from Anna’s poem that Wolf was fed table scraps, and the tradition continued with Yofi according to The Guardian:

Freud always fed Jofi choice morsels on his own plate and, as he often experienced pain when eating due to his diseased jaw, Jofi often ended up eating all his dinner, a factor that no doubt contributed to the dog’s roly-poly figure.

I like to think those “choice morsels” included kosher meat from my great uncle’s butcher shop, and that Jofi often frequented my relative’s premises.

Note: The photograph on the top of this post is a picture of Sigmund and Anna Freud on vacation in the Dolomites in 1913, long before their dog days. The original is in the Library of Congress.

16 Responses to Freud & Dogs, Part 1: A Case of Late Life Puppy Love

  1. Can’t wait to learn more. I’m hoping you’ll tell us that Freud found his dog to be an excellent co-therpist. An excellent listener and blank slate onto which the patient can project all manner of their inner life. A perfect Freudian psychotherapist. And, I completely relate to Freud’s grief.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      You’ll have to wait, but yes, it’s a nice story, though some of the patients, like Anna, felt Freud paid more attention to his dog than he did to them!

  2. Kim Clune says:

    Hmmm. Thermometers: a delicacy I wouldn’t have imagined. Maybe, Wolf’s interest in eating inanimate objects indicates he’d be even less likely to abstain from delicious buffet morsels, and this is the reason for his house ban? Sure, a translation error is the more likely explanation, but perhaps not…

    My dogs have been known to eat the mail, a map, hair scrunchies, screw driver handles and 2x4s. When they have, their excitement barely registers. Give them Beams though (these are pure Icelandic catfish skins from The Honest Kitchen) and, Amy can attest, they nearly rip up the floor in search of traction to reach me before my hand is even out of the box.

    Anna might be on to something. Perhaps I should write an ode to Shamus and Emmett’s enjoyment myself! Oh right. I suppose I have:

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thanks for coming by, Kim, and thanks for your attempt to explicate the poem. I worry about Wolf and the mercury in the thermometer, but history shows he lived to tell the tale so I guess I needn’t.

      Screw drivers and 2 X 4s, huh? Those must have been serious vet bills. I’m glad you’ve managed to tempt them with much healthier food and I love your testimonial video!

  3. I’d say if that IS an accurate translation, that as a poet, Anna ought to keep her day job.

  4. Jennifer Bement says:

    Great post, very interesting! I have two miniature Schnauzers who go by the names of Freud and Anna.

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thank you! And how funny that you named your miniature Schnauzers Freud and Anna. Did you know about Wolf and the poem or are you just a psychoanalysis fan?

  5. Lydia Davis says:

    I was intrigued by the thermometer problem and the weirdness of Anna’s poem in general, so I started searching for the German original, in case I could decipher it. Instead, I happened upon another interesting item about Freud and dogs.
    Apparently, when he was a teenager, he and a friend taught themselves Spanish in order to read Cervantes in the original. One thing they read by him was a humorous philosophical dialogue between two dogs, Cipión and Berganza, as they lie peacefully outside a hospital door.
    They loved the idea of these dogs, and starting then, for the next ten years, they kept up a correspondence in the characters of the dogs, Freud being Cipión and his friend being Berganza. Freud even wrote a poem to his friend in the voice of Cipión.
    The article I found––suggests, interestingly, that since the dialogue between the dogs follows a certain pattern, with Berganza doing most of the talking, as he tells his life story, while Cipión, the dog Freud chose to identify with, mostly listens and comments, Freud may have (subconsciously?) gotten the idea of the one-sided dialogue between psychoanalyst and analysand from the conversation between the dogs. What a fascinating theory–that Cervantes’s invented dogs may have been one of the inspirations for the discipline of psychoanalysis!

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      That’s amazing; I’d never heard anything about that. What an interesting idea that the psychoanalytic method might have been inspired by a style of discourse between two literary dogs! Anna must have known about this correspondence, so I wonder if her poems in Wolf’s voice weren’t quite as strange. Or, I should say, the idea of writing such poems. Based on a very small sample, the poems themselves seem a bit strange.

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  11. BCP Veterinary Pharmacy says:

    Such an interesting read! Thank you for posting this article. So glad I stopped by.

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