I used to think I was an animal person. Later on, I thought I was a cat person. I’ve always been fairly good in the handling and maintenance of animals; turns out, that doesn’t necessarily make you an animal person. It just makes you patient and sensible.
Full disclosure–I’ve got a pair of cats; I used to have a dog; and I used to be an avid equestrian, in spite of my very real fear of being kicked. I like to think I understand animal behavior, particularly predator behavior, better than most, but I would never ever claim to possess professional proficiency, but I can identify abusive and otherwise toxic relationships and behavior when I see them.
Some people, but particularly some women, develop stronger bonds with animal than with people–this includes family, even immediate family, even children. Now these women could be preferring the company of horses, which is a totally different conversation I’ll produce another time, but many more of them shower affection upon small dogs. I’m talking Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, and Dachshunds and others. These are small dogs no heavier than fifteen pounds which usually carry a host of different congenital disorders thanks to their unnaturally small size and uncomfortably stout limbs.
Small dogs are all about the owner. They’re so miserable, small, and pathetic that they’ll gravitate towards the provisioner of food and care but not necessarily the attempted provisioner of authority, often resulting in a defensive relationship with possessor against the rest of the universe. The sort of defensive behavior we’re talking about is essentially territoriality of person rather than space and will usually take the form of defensive aggression, though it could manifest considerably worse. Bites are altogether common. This unhealthy, defensive behavior will be laughed at and approved because the size of the animal generally implies its benignity in the eyes of the possessor and furthermore because in the eyes of the possessor such pathetic aggression seems cute, reinforcing said behavior. These animals will lash out against both strangers and family and do whatever’s necessary to possess the time of the owner until animal and owner become their own separate behavioral unit to the exclusion of the rest of the social circle. The owner will not be capable of understand what’s happening, tending to view the animal as a helpless surrogate child, in certain cases serving to alleviate the owner’s guilt regarding her own family and children. And that’s what this all is. Guilt.
Hygienic standards will tend be relaxed in the home of people with small dogs. The animals will relieve themselves inside more often than outside, and the owners themselves will trend towards more than a little hoarding behavior, particularly in living quarters though they may actually present a clean parlor. This seems to feed into some variety of agoraphobia.
Hoarding is perhaps the most appropriate term.
Now, people suffer all different sorts of maladies behind closed doors. Sometimes not even behind closed doors. But mind you, the dog person does as much damage to her person as the congenital alcoholic to his liver.