If you wanted a friend in Vienna…


With the arrival of First Dog “Bo” at the White House this weekend, let’s celebrate the first dog that Sigmund Freud’s family owned: a “not undangerous” German Shepherd named “Wolf.” [This from 3 independent sources, available upon request.] The best anecdote about Wolf’s cleverness has it, that one day the dog got loose in Vienna. [So far, not so clever, since although Wolf was nominally daughter Anna’s dog, “Papa” Sigmund adored him so much, that in 1925 Anna wrote, “I always assert that he transferred his whole interest in me on to Wolf.” The Guardian, 23 March 2002] The family searched all day for Wolf, but in vain. That evening the dog arrived home in a taxi, having jumped in and sat there, until the driver thought to read the address on his ID tag, and drove him back to 19 Bergasse [The German Shepherd Dog, Howell Book House, 1995].

Anna was being only a little bit Poetic, concerning the true object of her father’s affections. Freud’s Vienna apartment was turned into a museum some time ago; and I have made 3 visits to it over the years [yeah, yeah, what a geek], where they just let you wander about the place unattended. I have, naturally, used Freud’s WC, which has little pink flowers painted right in the toilet bowl [a quaint Viennese fin de siecle lavatorial fashion]. On the wall of his office there is a photograph of Freud with his very own, beloved dog [a Chow called Jofi], who was his “inseparable companion” from 1930 until her death in 1937, as Freud was suffering with terminal cancer of the jaw. She sat in on every one of his psychotherapy sessions, letting analyst & analysand know that their time was up “with copious yawning and stretching” [The Guardian].

In the same frame as the photo is Freud’s handwritten letter, in German, posing the question [my approximate translation here], “Why am I able to love my dogs more dearly than I love any person in my family?” His answer recalls the old Washington aphorism: “Because they love me without judgment or conditions.”

Willkommen, Bo!

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Filed under ambivalence, Freud meant..., transitional objects

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