There I sat at a long table in Sigmund Freud’s private library with a group of adult students. Surrounded by books in German and looking out through the large narrow window at Berggasse 19 in Vienna, I felt Dr. Freud’s presence, even though he had been dead for almost 68 years.
It was hard not to feel his presence; his bearded face, captured in a rich bronze bust, stared down at us from a corner pedestal. Perhaps he was analyzing my intellectual insecurities, as I commented on one of the last books he wrote: Civilization and Its Discontents.
Maybe I had eaten too much Weiner Schnitzel the night before, its heavy dose of salt swelling my brain, or maybe the sugar and chocolate from that Sacher Tort, blended with the caffeine of robust Viennese coffee, were playing with my concentration, but even though I was smack dab in the middle of Freud’s library, it was a psychologist, Dr. Margaret Van Go, who came to mind.
I tried to get back on task.
Staring directly across the table, past the intense faces of two of my fellow students, Alana from Toronto and James from New York, my eyes focused on one of Freud’s books entitled Verständnisvolle Hundewut or Understanding Canine Rage.
And although our tutor raised probing questions about sexual repression, my mind took a break from the discussion and scrolled back in time to memories of my wonderful German dogs: loyal Duchess, Dickens, Galaxy, and Chief, all German Shepherds and Elsa, my stout Rottweiler.
But troubling thoughts of Udo, my last dog, Dr. Van Go’s patient, interrupted my reverie.
You see, Dr. Van Go is a dog psychologist.
Alas, Udo had become stubborn and cranky.
Dr. Van Go arrived one afternoon around 4:00 pm in a dented brown Ford Econoline van filled with barking dogs, stuffed into crates. She was a large woman, with a stern brow and masculine hands. Around her neck roped a long leather leash like a pearl necklace.
We all gathered around our table that day: my husband, daughter, son, Elsa, Udo, and Dr. Van Go. My eyes drifted out our window, toward the redwood trees and creek, where lie the graves of our previous pets.
Udo’s short life history spilled out like sour milk. Dr. Van Go scribbled undecipherable notes in shorthand on her worn legal tablet detailing his early puppy hood in Iowa, his traumatic airplane trip to California, his painful rabies shot, and his first day of school. The doctor’s brow stiffened. She shook her large head, bit her lip, and asked if I might make strong coffee.
Udo sat protectively by me, his enormous muzzle parked on the table, wondering who this formidable woman was, the same woman who would then stand up, snap that leash onto his collar, and march him out the door, all in about 30 seconds.
When woman and dog came back into the kitchen, she rendered her analysis, all for $150.00.
You confuse Udo, poor boy, about his role in your family and it is all, I repeat, all your fault.
All our fault. We were paying for this guilt trip, so Dr. Van Go made sure we got our money’s worth.
Udo must never lie at the threshold of any doorway.
Udo must never have a treat before Elsa.
Udo must eat his dinner after we eat ours.
Udo must return to dog training class.
Udo must go for a 5-mile walk every day, to take the edge off.
Udo thinks he is Alpha, but in reality he is Epsilon.
Finally, Dr. Van Go went.
Udo lost his manhood the next day at a real doctor’s office.
He became a dog that even Sigmund Freud might have liked.
Right, Dr. Freud? I looked up just in time to be called upon by our tutor.
So, Ms. Sabraw, do you believe that Freud resented Carl Jung?
Carl, yes, Good Dog Carl is a wonderful story.