Thoughtful Thursday: Our Favorite Animal Companions

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.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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  1. “Justice for Hedwig!”

  2. Bobby Berry /

    What you say is so true. It seems that movies, especially, throw in a dog or other pet and pull your heart strings. And they have been doing that for decades Biscuit Eater comes to mind. As far as books, the dragons in Dragon Riders of Pern. Were incredible. Surviving the thread falls and saving his rider. As usual it brought tears to my eyes.

  3. Noneofyourbusiness /

    Keladry’s dog Jump and horse Peachblossom in the “Protector of the Small” quartet by Tamora Pierce, especially Jump because he’s not ill-tempered and difficult like Peachblossom. It’d be nice to have a scrappy medium-sized dog that goes everywhere with you and can fight to boot.

    • Jonathan Zev /

      Yes! And the sparrows too! You can’t forget the sparrows. Crown and her family saved Kel just as often as Jump did.

  4. John Smith /

    Miles, the dog companion to Xavier Rodriguez in the “Hell Divers” series.

  5. Lady Morar /

    The unicorns in Mary Stanton’s series, Unicorns of Balinor, with their various colorations. Wish she had continued it longer.

  6. Conal ONeill /

    Pip, the empathic mini-drag from the Pip and Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster.

  7. I must be reading a lot of grim dark as I don’t come across many familiars, but I always liked Ged’s little otak in A Wizard of Earthsea.

  8. The Distinguished Professor /

    In Anne McCaffrey’s world of Pern, I was particularly fond of Menolly’s many little fire lizards from the Harpers subseries, which was my introduction to the Dragonriders series. The Gap Dragon was also adorable when he was de-aged in one of Piers Anthony’s Xanth books, Dragon on a Pedestal, and followed Princess Ivy (no relation to the villain from Sofia the First) around, as seen on the cover. Trigger warnings for reading Anthony’s work, of course, though the earlier installments weren’t always as much of a quagmire.

    • Jonathan /

      Seconding Menolly’s fair as being adorable and hilarious and awesome. The fire lizards in general were just too much fun. (and if we’re talking about Harper Hall, then Piemur’s runnerbeast Stupid deserves a mention too)

      • I remember them when I first read them way back in middle school. They were awesome.

  9. A recent favorite is Solovey from the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden. I won’t breathe a word as to whether he lives or dies. ;)

    Nighteyes though … he is hard to beat. Actually all the animals in Realm of the Elderlings are excellent characters.

  10. OBERON from Kevin Hearne’s IRON DRUID CHRONICLES. I’m not a dog person, but I’d make an exception for Oberon.

  11. Jonathan /

    Does Derek (boy werewolf) from the Kate Daniels series count? :D
    There’s also Grendel, Kate’s shaved poodle. He’ll roll in your corpses and vomit on your rug, but he occasionally turns into a hellhound when Kate’s in danger, so what’s a bit of vomit between friends?

    I’m also going to name all the creatures from Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series. In White Hot there was the world’s most adorable heist team (two ferrets and a ferret-badger rob a mansion). Then in Wildfire they introduce Sgt. Teddy (““Someone thought it would be a good idea to make very smart magic bears and use them in combat,” the ex-soldier said. “Problem is, once you make someone smart, they become self-aware and call you on your bullshit. Sergeant Teddy is a pacifist.”) and Zeus, the weird demonic tiger.

  12. Harper Blaine’s pet ferret Chaos in the Greywalker series never contributed much to solving the mystery, but she sure was fun when she did show up.

  13. Ruth Arnell /

    One of my major entry points to reading fantasy as a teenager was Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. The Companions we’re pretty cool, but I wanted a kyree or one of the Hawkbrother birds. And, of course, Menolly’s fire lizards, as mentioned above, were awesome.

  14. CarolA /

    OK, so this is embarrassing: I can’t make myself finish “Fool’s Errand” because I suspect/know that Nighteyes will die. Yes, I have buried my head in the sand like an ostrich *blushes*.

  15. I feel affection for Harry Dresden’s Mister and Mouse.

    Also for Bill the pony in LOTR.

  16. SandyG /

    I have to go with the fire lizards from the Pern series. When I first read that series I really wanted one for a pet.

  17. For me there are a few. Jorin and all the animal companions P.C. Hodgell’s series. There is an interesting scene where all the cadets with animal companions have to take a class together.
    Another is Mabob from Janet Kagsn’s Murabile. I’d want one of him over almost anything else as my companion

    • And one more – Toby from Varley’s The Golden Globe. A enhanced bichon friese (call him a K-9.5 instead of a K-10) is too amusing for words. He’s also clever, brave and loyal.
      He builds on the K-10 concept in Irontown Blues with a pack of enhanced dogs, but Toby is still the best (and Golden Globe outperforms Irontown Blues by a large margin).

  18. Gidjez /

    The dog in I Am Legend will always stay with me.

  19. 100% Nighteyes from Robin Hobb’s Farseer Series.
    Also, Suri’s wolf Minna from Michael Sullivan’s Legends of the First Empire.

  20. I always adored the animals in Robin McKinley’s books, especially her early ones. Greatheart in Beauty, Sungold and Narknon in The Blue Sword, Aerin’s horse (whose name escapes me … Talat?) and the large dog and cat that later adopt her in The Hero and the Crown …

  21. It took me far too long to think of this one: K-9 from Dr Who.

  22. Sarah Webb /

    Tick-Tock from the James H Schmitz Telzey Amberdon stories.
    All the animals from Catseye by Andre Norton.

    I’d have loved a Fire Lizard from Pern.

  23. Did anyone mention Pounce from the “Beka Cooper” trilogy by Tamora Pierce?

  24. Sethia /

    Bela the horse from the Wheel of Time series will always have a special place in my heart!

  25. Mary Henaghen /


  26. Carol A, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks.
    Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!

  27. Our first chosen winner doesn’t live in the USA.

    Nick, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks.
    Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!

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