Freud at Home with his Dogs

For Freud, home was always a live/work space. In this new series we’ll be looking at where Sigmund Freud and his family lived and worked.

Sigmund Freud with his dog

Sigmund Freud and his Chow in Vienna, 1931 [IN/1067]

Working at home can be difficult, especially with all the distractions available. But lately we’ve all agreed that one thing’s certain: having a dog at home improves everything!

‘My family, and father emphatically so, had unconsciously become dog-lovers.’

Martin Freud[1]

Sigmund Freud’s son Martin sums it up: the Freud family loved dogs. Freud was not raised with pets, but came to love his canine companions later in life. He kept Chows, while Anna Freud had her own dog, a German Shepherd named Wolf.

Freud’s favourite dog was Jofi, who never left his side even as he was seeing patients. Since Freud’s consulting room was in his family home, the dogs were always present. Dog-lover or not, a patient of Freud would be used to the large furry Chow’s quiet presence in the book-lined consulting room while their analysis took place. Freud claimed that he never needed to look at his watch during a session, as when Jofi got up and yawned it meant that the allotted hour was over. She was never late.[2]

Anna and Sigmund Freud with Wolf, c.1930

Anna’s Freud’s four-legged friend

Anna Freud also had a consulting room in the home, though hers excluded her dog. Anna’s dog Wolf was highly obedient. Each morning the pair would escape the confines of home to walk to the Prater; Wolf loyally by Anna’s side.

But one newspaper cutting from an unknown paper in the archive of the Freud Museum London tells an interesting story about Wolf. One morning their walk was disturbed by the firing of a blank by soldiers on exercise. Wolf bolted and much to Anna’s distress she could not find him anywhere. She returned home to find Wolf waiting – he had taken a taxi home. According to the driver, the German Shepherd jumped into the back of his cab and resisted all efforts at removal. He instead raised his head, thereby letting the driver read his tag: ‘Professor Freud, Berggasse 19.’ Safely delivered home, Freud paid the taxi driver Wolf’s fare.[3]

The dogs are poets

Taxis rides were not the only foray into anthropomorphism for the Freud family dogs. Each year on Freud’s birthday, the dogs would write their master a poem. Of course the true author would be either Anna or Martin, but the poems were signed by, and from the perspective of, the dogs. On Freud’s 71st birthday Anna, as Wolf, wrote:

A birthday poem from Freud's dogs

Wolf, Jofi and Tattoun’s poem for Freud, 6 May 1931

6th May 1927

In a Wolf’s or Dog’s day – all the hours, you might say, –
are equal in their sight. – For following a trail, – or for
wagging your tail – any time is right.
But whoever too long – among human wrong – habits has his
habitation, – will strive with all his heart – to imitate their
art – of congratulation.
So the one crowned for your feast – is a tail-bearing
beast.[4]

The poems would be delivered by the dogs, usually tied to their collars with a ribbon. They were always warmly received by Freud.

Freud’s last dog

The final dog in Freud’s life was Lun, another Chow. The family was able to bring him with them to London in 1938, after leaving Nazi-occupied Vienna. Lun’s quarantine was a gruelling six-month separation from the family and his return was even covered by the Daily Mail. On 2nd December 1938 their story ‘Freud’s Pet Dog is Released from “Prison”’ featured a photo of Anna and Princess Marie Bonaparte as they greeted Lun, finally freed from his ‘prison kennels.’[5] Lun’s release was covered by the Evening Standard, the Daily Herald and The Star, as well as newspapers in Brussels and Paris. Lun had made headlines before, when Freud first visited his quarantined pet earlier in the year. The attention was not unexpected; Freud’s arrival in England and subsequent London life had been widely covered by the press.

 ‘It is no criticism of the British way of life’ Martin Freud wrote, ‘to suggest that a British family dog appears to be the most important member of the family.’[6]

After Sigmund’s death, Anna had Chows of her own at the house in Maresfield Gardens, with Hampstead Heath nearby for long walks.

Sigmund and Anna Freud with their dogs

Sigmund Freud with Jofi in Grinzing, Vienna, 1937 [IN/0123] and Anna Freud with Wolf, c. 1927 [IN/0231]


Notes:

[1] Freud, Martin ‘Freud: My Father’ in Ruitenbeck, Hendrik M. Freud as We Knew Him (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1973) p. 379

[2] ibid. p.379

[3] ‘Wolf nimmt ein Taxi’ Freud Museum London Archive [AF/01/04/04/005]

[4] ‘Gedichte von den Hunden’ Freud Museum London Archive [SF/03/04/04]

[5] ‘Freud’s Pet Dog is Released from “Prison”’ Freud Museum London Archive [PC/12/010]

[6] Freud, Martin ‘Freud: My Father’ in Ruitenbeck, Hendrik M. Freud as We Knew Him (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1973) p. 379

 

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