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
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 butcher shop, and that Jofi often frequented my relative’s premises.