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Freud Sang to His Dog


Sigmund Freud and dog in his study, by Hilda Doolittle. Source: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Bibliographic Record Number: 39002035067041.

During the summer of 1938, a frail 82-year-old man was forced by the Nazis to flee his home. On the train out of Vienna, along with other family members, was his Chow companion Lün. Upon arriving in Dover, in accordance with English laws, Lün was taken from him and placed in the quarantine kennels at Ladbroke Grove, London. Just five days after Freud settled into his new house, the weary exile ventured out on his first trip. This is how an Australian newspaper, The Referee, described the event:

Freud found his journey across London tiring. He seemed to find it a great effort to walk up the path to the front door, supported by his daughter, Dr. Anna Freud. But nothing could have kept the great scientist away from his dog friend. And yesterday I was told by Mr. Kevin L. Quin, head of the quarantine kennels, how Lün leapt to meet him at his approach, glad recognition in every gesture. “It was difficult to say which was more delighted,” Mr. Quin told me. “I have never seen such happiness and understanding in an animal’s eyes …. He played with her, talked to her, using all sorts of little terms of endearment, for fully an hour. And, though the journey is long for a man of his years, he said he was resolute in coming to see Lün as often as he can.”

It has been noted that any person who tries seriously to figure out human behavior will sooner or later come to appreciate the company of dogs. Sigmund Freud was no exception. At the onset of the Second World War, he was especially disillusioned with his fellow man. Freud had devoted his life to analyzing the contradictory and irrational aspects of the unconscious mind, a labor that made animals seem much easier to understand. His daughter Anna recalled that “[w]hat Freud valued in his dogs was their gracefulness, devotion, and fidelity; what he frequently stressed and praised as a decided advantage over men was their absence of any ambivalence. ‘Dogs,’ as he used to say, ‘love their friends and bite their enemies, in contrast to men who are incapable of pure love and must at all times mix love and hate in their object relations.”

The first dog to live at Berggasse 19, Freud’s Vienna apartment, was a German Shepherd named Wolf. Freud gave him to Anna in 1925 for protection on her long walks through the city. But Wolf’s services extended to other arenas—he once bit Ernest Jones (a colleague and future biographer) in 1927. Freud felt that Jones deserved it, probably because years before Freud had worried that Jones would seduce Anna on her first visit to England. In a sense Freud saw Wolf as substitute figure for himself, keeping Anna safe and punishing annoying guests. Years later Freud wrote Jones the following lines, again identifying with the dog: “Our Wolf, too, who once behaved with such unfriendliness toward you is now an old man, in his doggy way as old as me, i.e., over eleven years.”

But Wolf could also act as a surrogate for others. Freud admitted that he bestowed on Wolf the tender feelings intended for his grandson Heinele, who had died as a young boy. Animals played a similar role for Anna, who as an adult could more readily show affection for her father through the family dogs. On Freud’s birthdays she would always compose a canine poem and attach it to the dog’s collar. At first Wolf had the sole honor of delivering the birthday greetings, but in 1928 Freud acquired a dog of his own. This Chow, LünYug, was run over by a train in August of 1929 when she was only 15 months old. Freud was dejected and wouldn’t hear of getting a replacement. By the next spring, however, he was ready for another Chow, Lün Yug’s sister Jofi. This dog was to become Freud’s cherished pet for the next seven years.

On his 74th birthday, while away in Berlin for medical care, Freud received Jofi’s first doggerel verse:

Jofi who leaps/and through the door escapes,/ho slips the leash/and fights with enemies,/ho stretches out in greeting and/licks your hand, sends herewith/on May the sixth/a symbol that/should indicate/how she wants to change/and act more restrained:/wants to scarcely move when/doors are opened/does not want to bark nor scrap/nor run nor leap/hardly wants to drink or eat.

So speaks Jofi sad at heart/sorry that we are apart.




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