You’ve seen it in the theaters, watching a film where they kill eight or nine or a dozen people through variously inventive means, but it’s always the dog that evokes the strongest reaction. “Oh, not the dog” someone always whispers (it might even be me) and then the gun barrel is leveled or the truck bears down — and we all know we can tell if this movie will end happily by if the dog lives or dies.

They almost never die, though. Not even in Independence Day or Armageddon, despite the destruction of many of the world’s major cities. Oh, I suppose one could assume some dogs died with their owners — and perhaps even a cat or two though they were probably smart enough, and disloyal enough, to have left town at the first scent of trouble — but we never see it happen.

We watch with nary a cringe as hundreds of people are incinerated but grip the armrest when a single canine is about to be overtaken by the same flames, and we don’t let go until (spoiler alert for the decades-old movie) it escapes by bounding into a side-tunnel. Nobody in the audience cares the humans didn’t make it; it was the dog that got them.

Well, it’s the dog that often gets us here at FanLit as well. Or the wolf. Or the crow. The meerkats. The dragon. Any of those animal companions that seem so prevalent in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Don’t, for instance, get either Kat and me going on an extended discussion of Nighteyes, FitzChivalry’s wolf-companion from Robin Hobb’s FARSEER series. Not, at least, unless you’ve got a box or two of tissues around to help mop up the inevitable tears that will ensue. And proving she’s no one-trick pony (or wolf, or dog), Hobb gets both of them as well with that crow Motley. Certainly a cousin sometimes removed of Kaw, that loveable, impish crow from Lloyd Alexander’s PRYDAIN chronicles. We could almost do a post just about crows (or at least birds — we’re guessing a few of you might be thinking of a particular owl right about now).

So who are some of your favorite animal companions? One random commenter will win a book of their choice from our stacks.