In December 2011, when I learned that the 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
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; it’s from the introduction to Topsy: The Story of a Golden-Haired Chow, which I will discuss in more detail in a future post:
On account of the coming of much of the clan
A house ban
Now ‘gainst his normal demeanor and noise
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.
Unlike Golden retrievers, German shepherds are not known for ingesting, well, everything, but based on the phrase “sucked-up thermometers,” Wolf might have been a breed ambassador for the practice. Since there were no reports of injury, we have to assume that he swallowed the thermometer intact, with no glass shards or mercury damage.
Sigmund Freud gets a dog too
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 one of my great uncle’s butcher shops, 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.