Have you been called to go on a life-changing and extremely perilous quest to save the town/world/universe/multiverse from an evil/deranged/misguided god/monster/relative/gym teacher? If so, you’re going to want to be prepared. Or at least dressed in something other than your pajamas.
Unfortunately, the specific trajectory of your adventure will be impossible to predict. That said, no budding hero should leave the house without at least two of the following:
-Playlist of pop-punk hits from the 2000s
And most important of all, a loyal animal companion. No, we’re not suggesting that you drag your French bulldog out of bed for this. Leave Princess back at the doghouse. Your furry or feathered sidekick must be able to hold their own and survive all the death-defying danger you’re liable to face on your upcoming journey.
We’re talking about animals with magical, mystical, or divine heritage. The kind that won’t be caged or put on a leash. The ones who definitely wouldn’t get away with so much smack talk if they weren’t so darned cute—and right (most of the time).
So, which type of animal sidekick would be well-suited for you and your current needs?
Check Their References
You’re not likely to come across any of these supernatural critters at your local zoo or pet store. Rather, these potential animal partners appear out of the blue and approach humans at a time of their choosing.
Be forewarned, these creatures tend to talk fast and deliver important exposition that will help inform your future quest. Don’t take what they say at face value, though. Always make sure to ask who sent them and where they really come from.
Do they work for a pantheon of gods? Then you can probably place your trust in them. Are they a human trapped in an animal body? Perhaps you should keep your distance for the time being. Did simply they arise one day from the underworld? Call your local exorcist immediately!
No one expects the innocent and helpful animal sidekick to be the one who ultimately betrays the team to the forces of evil in the end. But that’s not to say it has never happened. And beware: these traitorous little creeps don’t typically reveal their true colors until at least the third or fourth adventure.
So, always be sure to verify the true origin of any magical animal you encounter in the wild. Otherwise, you may gain a reputation for being that person who swore a blood vendetta against a parakeet. And that’s never a good look.
Make Sure Your Personalities Are Compatible, Not Combative
We shouldn’t blame animal sidekicks for being a bit resentful over their lot in life. After all, their own hopes and dreams are taking a backseat to the immediate needs and concerns of their human companions. They can’t hang out with other members of their species because they simply must help a hairless primate reach self-actualization or something. It must make them lonely.
Naturally, their repressed feelings often materialize in heavy doses of sass and backtalk. The trick is to recognize the difference between playful banter and hurtful bullying. Battling monsters and saving innocent lives is stressful enough without an angry frog on your shoulder repeating the words You’re a failure and your family secretly hates you.
Alternatively, if you come across the rare animal sidekick who doesn’t talk back (or better yet, doesn’t talk at all), be sure not to let them out of your sight. And please pass along the details about where you found them. We’re getting desperate over here.
Double Check That They’ve Been Properly Trained
The only thing worse than a magical animal sidekick who hurts your feelings? An animal sidekick who doesn’t know how to hurt anything.
Given their funny little buddy’s mystical powers and ability to talk, many heroes tend to forget that in another life, their companion wasn’t much more than a hungry, feral, poop factory. Your new animal sidekick may be able to cast spells, heal mortal wounds, and/or breathe fire, but you still need to make sure they can clean up after themselves.
As much as animal sidekicks hate to be treated as pets, sometimes there’s no getting around it. Don’t enable them. Remember, it’s not your job to check whether they’re receiving enough exercise and nutrition (unless you want to, for whatever strange reason). And if your sidekick hesitates to answer the question Can you go inside or do you need to be let outside? the answer is never what you want it to be.
We should probably also mention that animal sidekicks have a strange habit of transforming into different animals. If you wake up one day to find that your tiny lizard has morphed into a man-eating crocodile, or your cuddly caterpillar has grown into something much stranger than a typical butterfly, try not to look too shocked. It’s kind of like when one of your human friends debuts a horrible new haircut. Grit your teeth, tell them they look fabulous, and pray it isn’t a sign that they’ve gone off the deep end.
Ask Yourself If You Truly Need an Animal Sidekick
Is it starting to sound like having an animal sidekick would be more trouble than it’s worth? If so, there’s no need to limit your partner exclusively to fauna. Supernatural companions come in many different varieties.
Have you come across any friendly ghosts lately? Or how about that ancient dragon who just started following you on Instagram? Maybe it’s time to finally strike up a conversation with that demon who’s been rummaging through the dumpsters behind your building.
Better yet, you could consult your physician/mystical elder to see if you already have a hidden animal persona within. Who needs a talking bird when you can transform yourself into a wily fox or ferocious jungle cat? Unless, of course, you start craving a midnight snack of freshly killed fowl . . .
No, no, no, we’re not advocating the consumption of any of these adorable critters. But every once in a while, there’s no harm in reminding these know-it-alls about who really sits at the top of the food chain.
What characteristics are you looking for in your next animal sidekick? Be sure to let us know!