Reading a recent Guardian piece on animal companions in kid's literature, I couldn't help but get pointlessly annoyed at the inclusion of Bartimaeus - an admittedly awesome djinni who however doesn't really ever even so much as take on an animal form. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it did make me start to wonder who my own favourite animal companions were, whether they be found in books, on telly or on the big screen. And so, without any further ado....
Muttley - Wacky Races
Animal companion to one Dick Dastardly and also an ace pilot, Muttley is easily the more intelligent of the two. He also has all the best catchphrases, and one of the world's best laughs.
Pantalaimon - His Dark Materials
While not strictly an animal but Lyra Belacqua's daemon, Pan at least spends his time flitting between animal forms with his favourites being an ermine, a wildcat, and a mouse. The physical manifestation of her soul, Pan acts as the level-headed, cautious voice of reason for the passionate and reckless Lyra.
Nanook - The Lost Boys
As well as being the best looking dog to have ever graced the cinema screen, Nanook will also save you from vampiric siblings.
Dog - Good Omens
A Hellhound acting as the Antichrist's protector and companion, Dog started put as a large and ferocious beast. But Adam, swapped at birth and unaware of his origins, wishes for "one of those dogs that’s brilliantly intelligent and can go down rabbit holes and has one funny ear that always looks inside out" and so Dog soon becomes a small, fun mongrel, along with appropriate attitude adjustment.
Rothko - My Wrongs
Things can go very, very wrong when you're with a dog that thinks it's your lawyer. This one is probably the animal companion most likely to see you get jailed.
Backup - Veronica Mars
Is our pint-sized PI going to take back-up with her? Of course she is, look at that face! Veronica's wingman on more than one investigation, Backup can inspire caution in even the biggest criminals.
Mouse - Dresden Files
Mouse is a Temple Dog with apparently divine origins. Having entered the life of one Harry Dresden in Blood Rites and deciding to stay, any who recognise Mouse for what he is are usually astounded that he chooses to hang out with Dresden. A huge beast of a dog with incredible intelligence - to the point of fully understanding human speech and battle plans - who emits a faint blue nimbus in battle, possesses supernatural speed and healing and a bark you wouldn't believe, no-one messes with Harry if Mouse has got anything to do with it.
Nighteyes - Robin Hobb's Assassin series
Thanks to the Wit, Robin Hobb's awesome Assassin books starring Fitzchivalry Farseer are also home to some of the best animal companions around. One of the series' main strengths was, to me, how Hobb gave each of the animals distinct personalities and voices. This was particularly true for Nighteyes, the wonderfully sarcastic and pragmatic wolf with whom Fitz shares a bond and who, it turned out, was also capable of completely shredding me emotionally:
"Wait for you? Not likely. I've always had to run ahead of you and show you the way." (Fool's Errand)
Ghost the Fox - Grizzly Man
Some of the loveliest moments in Werner Herzog's incredible Grizzly Man come when Timothy Treadwell is hanging out with Ghost, the playful fox. It should be noted here however that, no matter how awesome they are, bears are NOT companions.
Drogon - Game of Thrones
When I first drew up this list it was going to include Ghost, Jon Snow's albino dire-wolf, but then I remembered that when the choices include dragons, all other answers are wrong.
There are three of Danaerys' 'children' to choose from, but my favourite has to be the fantastically lairy Drogon, the largest and most aggressive of the three. He's already saved Dany in the Houses of the Undying and roasted a slave-master, but if the series is staying faithful to the books then he's about to become even more of a handful.
Marcel - Friends
Everyone knows that monkeys are by far and away the very best animal there is. Make him a capuchin with a penchant for copulating with your friends belongings and refusing to listen to anything but his favourite song, and you've just hit the animal companion jackpot.