You can tell an awful lot about people by watching how they treat dogs. The audience of an unspeaking canine often brings out, even exaggerates, personality traits repressed in ordinary human interaction.

Dogs are unique among domesticated animals. The only other large animals popular as pets are cats, most of whom view humans merely as a convenient source of food and shelter. Cats do not become attached to their so-called owners, and training them is a futile task. The feline, domesticated or not, is truly beyond good and evil.

The domesticated canine, on the other hand, is fundamentally a social animal. It craves attention and affection. Though sorely lacking in the elegance, subtlety, and survival instincts of cats, dogs make much better companions for extroverted humans by virtue of their emotive docility. They allow people to express their natural personalities without fear of social repercussions.

Sometimes those personalities are good ones - witness the tired office clerk grinning her ears off as she tosses a frisbee to her mutt in a park on a Saturday afternoon. But dogs can reveal humans' ugly sides, too - ever seen a gangster or a redneck keep his pit bull chained out in the sun, prodding it with a stick to make it vicious and bloodthirsty? Here are a few of the human archetypes brought to life by canine interaction:

The Drill Sergeant

This guy is absolutely his pet's master. He demands absolute discipline and obedience. Though strict and stern, he is not abusive toward the animal; his authoritarian instincts merely crave order and precision. Most often involved in some sort of police or military profession, the Drill Sergeant gets a dog to fulfill his deep-seated need to give orders. Large, physically active animals such as the German Shepherd are popular among this type.

The Overprotective Mother

Her own children are all grown up. Her purpose in life seems to be lost. She needs something to smother in affection, dammit! Something that will return that affection unconditionally, or at least sit quietly and take it without complaining. So she gets a dog - a purebred dog, because she demands the very best - and pampers it like it was going out of style. The Overprotective Mother most often chooses a toy breed which will never have the opportunity to grow into an unadorable annoyance.

The Good Sport

The world is full of good-natured, easygoing people. A few lucky ones even get to spend most of their lives being that way. But most don't, forced by economic necessity into 40-plus hours a week of toil and drudgery. Work is only a means to an end: weekends and vacations and unstructured time spent with friends. These people like free play and active relaxation, and a vigorous, cheerful canine companion is a perfect antidote to the workday blues. You'll run across plenty of Good Sports walking down the sidewalk or beach or mountain trail with their Labrador Retrievers and Huskys. More likely than not, both dog and owner will greet you enthusiastically.

The Tyrant

This little shithead has a major Napoleon Complex. He has no respect or regard for his fellow man. No one loves him, or even likes him. All he knows is fear - the world scares him, so he tries to instill fear in others. Real power leads to confidence and graciousness, but the Tyrant feels powerless, so he has to prove he's a badass to someone. Others reward their pets, or at the very minimum treat them in a humane manner. The Tyrant neglects and abuses his dog. He starves it, beats it, leaves it exposed to the elements. And if you see him doing it, don't ignore him since it's "just an animal" that's getting hurt. Anyone who behaves that way with his dog is most likely just as vicious toward his own mate and offspring.

The Visionary

Dogs can't understand much of human speech, so most humans don't expend much of their vocabulary on dogs. "Go fetch! Good boy. Sit. Heel. That's a good dog. Have a biscuit." But some thinkers and dreamers will turn to the nearest canine as an audience for their wild ideas if no agreeable human is nearby to listen to them. Though the dog recognizes its own name, the intricacies of psychobiology and set theory are certainly beyond its comprehension. But the Visionary's mind never turns off, and when no one else is around he'd rather talk shop to his loyal pet than keep his thoughts to himself.

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