Freud’s Damn Dog & Other Curious Tales Of Being Analyzed By Freud


From Old Milk To Sigmund Freud And Beyond

On a rainy Sunday in northwestern Illinois, ones thoughts naturally turn to Freudian anecdotes.

Well, first they turn to “I wonder if that milk we bought before vacation is still OK to drink?” And then they turn to the complexities of deciding if I should call my mother this early and risk wakening her or wait a while and risk missing her if she is at church. This leads to ruefully remembering why I usually call on Saturdays rather than Sundays. Of course, once I use any variant of the word, “rueful,” I reflexively think of RuPaul, the 6 ft 4 in drag queen, who popularized the observation that “we all came into this world naked, the rest of it is all drag” and whose cover of Dolly Parton’s Hard Candy Christmas (from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) is the standout track on my 2005 Christmas Mix CD. Then, I speculate on Dolly’s feelings about Porter Wagoner after their professional split and try to recall if Porter is still alive.

Anyway, after a dozen or so such concerns, I begin to ponder a Sunday entry for my blog. My thoughts then turn to the realization that nothing that had thus far crossed my mind could be easily expanded into even a C-minus sort of post.

Finally, my thoughts do indeed turn to Freudian anecdotes. Your thoughts may now be turning to “Why would anyone spend even five minutes of a Sunday reading a few pointless stories about Freud?”

Well,1 as Matthew Arnold famously pointed out in his essay, Literature and Science “All knowledge is interesting to a wise man.”

If that’s not enough reason, these have proven, in the right hands (or, more accurately, I suppose, the right mouth) handy conversation starters at urban cocktail and dinner parties.

Besides, you’ve already invested this much time and effort; aren’t you curious about where this is all heading?

I certainly am.

The Source – Roy Grinker, Sr, MD

The head of the psychiatric program at Michael Reese during my residency was Roy Grinker, Sr, MD, who was quite a hot-shot in psychiatry for a number of accomplishments. Our interest today, however has to do with the fact that he was analyzed by Freud – on a 1932 Rockefeller Fellowship, no less. The following are excerpts of letters from Freud to Grinker negotiating the terms of the analysis:2

April 16, 1933 (in English)

Dear Dr. Grinker,
I expect to have free hours in the fall this year and will be ready to undertake your analysis provided my health continues as it is now. My fee is $25.00 per hour but in consideration of the special interest in your case I would agree to a reduction. Yet, I cannot give a definite promise until I have got your kind information about three points: 1) what is your age 2) how much time you intend to spend on your analysis 3) whether by some chance you speak German and can perform your analysis in that language although the negative is no obstacle. If you find it inconvenient to stick to me, you have the choice among several other analysts, well known to your friend, Dr. Alexander.

Sincerely Yours,

May 15, 1933 (translated from the German)
You are right to assume that my greedy instincts will be strongly influenced by your future career in America. But, in addition, there are material needs to be considered. I am still forced to make a living. I cannot do more than five hours of analysis daily and I do not know how much longer I shall work at all. Thus a fee of 15 dollars is my lowest rate per hour. The amount of $1500 which you have proposed for your analysis would cover 100 hours, that is four months. Even if for you I were to decrease this to $10.00, this would result in 150 hours, which would be about 6 months. I can make no other arrangements. Please consider the situation and let me know.

With best wishes,


June 8, 1933 (translated from German)
I am glad to hear that it has been easier for you to be in analysis with me since I myself care about it. The first of September would be a good time to start; in August I would like to have a rest. As concerns the fee you are rather too discreet about it which is unjustified among analysts. You mention no figure. I do not recall whether I have made you a positive proposal; I think I have only illustrated the shortcomings of your calculations. Also the circumstances have changed since then. The dollar has lost much of its value and will perhaps drop further within the next few months. Thus we have reached no agreement on this point. I expect to hear from you.

Yours Truly,

At the end, on the other hand, Freud told Grinker “Your analysis was one of my last remaining pleasures in life.”

Grinker would, on occasion, relate a few stories about his analysis with Freud in his talks and lectures, especially those addressed to the residents and his colleagues. That’s where I heard them.

Freud Let The Dogs Out

It’s a cliché in psychoanalytic circles that Freud was not a Freudian, i.e., Freud didn’t maintain the sterile, silent session environment for which analysts sometimes strive to prevent contaminating the transference by becoming a real person to the patient rather than a blank screen onto which feelings can be displaced. Grinker’s descriptions seem to bear this out.

According to Grinker, for example, when Freud was excited, he would pound on the arms of his chair and, not infrequently, the head of the patient’s couch.

Freud and his daughter, Anna (also an analyst), both kept dogs (Freud had a chow named Yofi and Anna had a giant wolfhound) that had the run of the offices and shared waiting room. Both dogs would start barking whenever anyone rang the doorbell. The wolfhound would immediately start sniffing Grinker’s genitals. Grinker reported that, as a consequence, he always entered Freud’s office “with a high level of castration anxiety.”

At Freud’s seminar, the wolfhound once lay next to him and barked, causing Anna Freud to tell Grinker that the dog was “perfectly safe.” After a pause, she went on to point out that, of course, when the dog was younger, he had a habit of eviscerating sheep. Then she repeated that now he was perfectly safe. Finally, she advised Grinker to pull his tail to make him stop barking. Grinker opted not to follow that suggestion.

Yofi, Freud’s Chinese Chow, would sit alongside Grinker’s couch and, as dogs are wont to do, eventually scratch at the door to be let out. Freud would release the dog, and, on his return to his chair, note that Yofi hadn’t thought much of what Grinker had been talking about. When the dog would later scratch to get back in the office, Freud would comment that Yofi had decided to give Grinker another chance.

In another episode, Grinker was emoting with intensity when, as Grinker explained it, “The damn dog jumped on top of me.” Freud immediately responded — by commenting that Yofi was excited that Grinker had discovered the roots of his anxiety. During this interpretation, Grinker, by his own report, lay quietly with eyes closed, as one is taught to do when, for example, attacked by wild bears.

We’ll leave Doctors Freud and Grinker, as well as the mighty Yofi, there for now. Another handful of Freud & Grinker anecdotes, none of which feature dogs or other animals, will be posted soon.

No animals were harmed in the production of this post.

Update: Also see A Freudian Trip: More Curious Stories About Being Analyzed By Freud

Credit Due Department: Photo by Max Halberstadt (Public Domain)

Note: Originally posted June 25, 2006 at, a predecessor of


  1. At this point, I have compassionately forgone interpreting the pathological defensiveness of such a question. []
  2. The source for these letters is From the Institute/Society Archives: Sigmund Freud’s Letters to R.R. Grinker Sr., 1933-4. Plans for a Personal Analysis By Jerome Kavka, M.D., Archivist []

One thought on “Freud’s Damn Dog & Other Curious Tales Of Being Analyzed By Freud

Leave a Reply