Sigmund Freud and Jofi/Yofi. Funny, he doesn't look Jewish.

You knew it was just a question of time, didn’t you, before I found a way to connect my two interests, my current and future projects? You’d be amazed at how easy it was!

To recap: I recently discovered that my great uncle, Siegmund Kornmehl, had a kosher butcher shop in the same apartment building where Sigmund Freud lived and saw patients in Vienna. A picture I spotted in a photography book devoted to that apartment building inspired this new series, which will explore everything from Freud’s love for dogs and the role they played in his practice, to the claim that psychoanalysis can be useful in dog training, to the dog paintings of Freud’s grandson, Lucian, to… well, we’ll see.

Anna Freud gets a dog

I thought I’d come to dog love late in life, but Freud had me beat by many years. 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.

Anna Freud was in her 30s, her father in his seventies. It’s sweet, but a little, um, unusual. Analyze that!

Sigmund Freud gets a dog too

In 1928, a close friend of Anna’s 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 (you didn’t know I spoke Chinese, did you?).

And it might be easy to mistake the name of Freud’s next dog for a similarly esoteric nod to Eastern religion. Not so, according to an article in the Forward magazine (which is otherwise about Albert Einstein being a lousy 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. 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 meat from my great uncle’s kosher butcher shop, and that Jofi often frequented my relative’s premises.

40 thoughts on “Dogs & Psychoanalysis, Part 1: Sigmund Freud’s Case of Puppy Love”

    1. Thanks, Vicki. By the time Freud got his dog, he had fallen out with Jung — and most of his other professional colleagues. So, the author of the Guardian story guesses, he was especially comforted by canine company!

  1. That Chow looks very different than the Chows we see today! She looks more like a mix of a Chow and a Shar-pei, which shouldn’t be a big surprise I guess, since they are cousins and the only dogs with black tongues. I imagine they split off from the same lines into different breeds, but then took a while to develop their distinct characteristics. Very interesting.

    1. I agree, that Chow looks quite different, though in another picture — which I’ll post soon — Yofi looks a bit more Chow-like. And Anna Freud’s description of Yofi’s behavior — also to come in another post — would suggest that he is very Chowish (if not Jewish).

  2. What a great series! Many years ago—14 to be exact—-I visited Freud’s office in Vienna. My dog consciousness then isn’t what it is today so unfortunately I didn’t notice, or don’t remember, the picture of Wolf. Despite all the bad press Freud has received over the decades about the disservice he did to women—-penis envy and all that—-I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for him. Maybe now I know why. He loved and appreciated dogs.

    1. Thanks, Deborah — nice to see you! I know what you mean about Freud’s bad press and his antifeminist views, but so much that he did sunk into world consciousness that we don’t even think about it anymore. It’s hard to imagine a world that didn’t believe the past has an effect on the present or in the unconscious, or repression, or…

  3. Rats! I was just starting to research the topic of Freud and his love of dogs in the latter stages of life. But you are covering it well.

    I wonder how his works might have been different if he had made the discovery earlier.

    1. See, you’re totally proving yourself worthy success to the Pet Travel Book Club based on that pun alone.

      I have not seen How to Raise a Jewish Dog but will check it out. And now I see that I might have to give Frankie a bark mitzvah after all…

  4. It sounds like “Bergstrasse” is an amazing book with wonderful pictures, what ashame it is so expensive. I am surprised to hear about Freud’s relationship with dogs. Somehow psycho-analists always seem cold and distant when you hear about their research and discoveries. Surely he was not.
    Thank you for the soft landing 🙂

    1. Actually, I got a used hardcover copy of Berggasse 19 for $7.50 US — not expensive at all and it is a wonderful book. A lot of mistaken beliefs about psychoanalysis are based on Freud’s jaw cancer; it was painful for him to talk in his late years and so his silence was taken as part of the practice.

      But wait until the second part of the series, where Freud’s dog plays even a greater role…

  5. Isn’t it funny how when you love something, it seems to crop up in more and more places? I’m not at all surprised that your interests have found a way to overlap a bit. It’s a lucky co-incidence. I can’t wait to learn more.

    1. Thanks K & J! By the way, thanks for the reminder that this is International Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. I celebrate almost every day, but it’s nice to know it’s official!

  6. What a very intriguing post – and am very pleased you fit dogs in with Freud and your grandfather’s butcher shop.
    BTW, on a totally different note but animal related. “War Horse” is a nominee for Best Picture at the Academy Awards :).

    1. Remember — he was a Victorian! And might have been hung up on sex, but he didn’t have a problem with homosexuality so at least it was an equal opportunity hang up 😉

    1. Thank you — No one else assured me of Jofi’s presence in my great uncle’s butcher shop as emphatically as you did!

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