Nerd’s Best Friend: Hero Pets I Would Kill to Have

I need a pet. I need a pet like I need 17 sequels to Fast & Furious, or how I tuck the blankets under me to make a human burrito when I go to sleep — I can live without it, but my quality of life is 73% better with it. But you know what makes it harder? Being a nerd who loves pets. Nerd standards are fundamentally flawed, including what we dream in an animal sidekick, and our best hope is having a pet quirky enough to match our imaginations.

Here are ten pets in the nerd game that your dog or cat doesn’t know they’re being compared to. Thanks to them, the sidekick bar is unreasonably high and had you price-checking ferrets to name Pabu, and knowing at least one person who has a 16 year old Corgi because in 1999 it looked like Vulpix.

Ampersand (Y: The Last Man)

The capuchin game had been dead till Ampersand took that baton and leapt into a tree with it, wearing a diaper and flinging poo at anyone who tried stopping his reign from 2002 to 2008. Amp was the one of only two male organisms alive on earth, and often the smartest one based on Yorick’s poor decision-making skills. How many cats you know that saved human civilization by throwing life-saving genetically evolved poop? You haven’t loved a monkey like this since Monkey Trouble in 1994. I was 9 years old when I looked up a pet store in the phone book only to call and learn I’m $2,000 short of my dream pet, yet here I am two decades later making the same dumb call thanks to a monkey with the coolest name ever. Ampersand was the man.

Lying Cat (Saga)

The best and the worst in the game, Lying Cat is the JR Smith of superhero pets: homegirl is so useful when she’s on, but when she can’t control herself you stay wondering why you keep her around. She can tell if anyone around her is being dishonest, and calls them on it by hissing the word “lying” in the most blatant airing of dirty laundry. If Lying Cat heard a Drake album she’d brew a pot of tea and be on her third throat lozenge before jumping out in space like it’s just not worth it. But The Will would save her, just like we all would, because despite being seafoam green and wrinkly with gaunt cheeks that sort of make her resemble a corpse, Lying Cat defies conventional standards of pet beauty and we’d want nothing more than to be annoyed by her.

Appa (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

When it comes to hero pets, Appa has the market on big, dopey, and loveable. He’s the Beethoven of a new generation – a six-legged, flying Saint Bernard you love hugging despite not being able to wrap your arms all the way around. Appa’s that dude Samuel L. Jackson was talking about in the beginning of The Negotiator, or the intro to DMX’s grand champ. He meant to say “flying bison,” he just didn’t know it. And you know what makes you love Appa so much? Seeing how much Aang loved him. You didn’t know how real it was till Appa was kidnapped in Season 2, and Aang’s eyes turn white-hot heat and Katara had to whisper sweet nothings in his ear before he went on a Grand Theft Auto killing spree. That’s when you knew. He was more than Team Avatar’s private plane; Appa was a true friend.

Naga (Legend of Korra)

Any scene that Korra reunites with Naga will melt your heart. If it doesn’t, go outside and bury your childhood because you’re dead inside and grew up to be Cruella Deville. Naga is a polar-bear dog, and you knew you wanted one since the first time you heard the term. Strong and loyal, Naga has the speed and strength of a bear with the temperament of a playful dog. Remember when Naga and Pabu charged a group of Equalists? Or when she wanted to play fetch with Bei-Fong? How could you not love a dog that’s big enough to hold you down in battle yet spirited enough to want to play games after? Naga is a dream dog… just make sure you bring treats for her.

Redwing (Falcon/Captain America)

Falcon Redwing
A telepathically-bonded falcon? What we talkin’ ‘bout here?! Redwing and Sam Wilson are on a whole ‘nother level, my friends. The two can see through each others eyes and Falcon can control Redwing with his thoughts, making Redwing one of the dopest and most useful pets in the hero game. A member of the Pet Avengers, Redwing is a hero in his own right, and is now in action with Sam Wilson as the All-New Captain America, saving the life of his old friend in his new costume.

Lockjaw (Inhumans/Ms. Marvel)

Like many on this list, Lockjaw can barely be considered a pet. The word is almost demeaning to him. He’s an Inhuman, the same species as Black Bolt. Immensely useful, Lockjaw can teleport anywhere and bring you along for the ride. Want to teleport out a sticky situation? Done. Need to teleport to space? He’s got you. This ginormous mastiff-looking pooch can take you into missions just as easily as he can take you to the moon. He’s even got his own superhero team! Dude leads the Pet Avengers, and once found all the Infinity Gems and left Thanos stranded in another dimension. And now that he’s with Kamala Khan? +1000 adoration points.

Lockheed (Kitty Pryde)

Lockheed barely counts as a pet because, as Jorah Mormont reminds us, dragons’ll always be wild. You can’t force control over them, they have to love and respect you of their own accord. That’s the story with Kitty Pryde, whose sidekick Lockheed is a purple alien dragon who became her constant willing companion. Another member of the Pet Avengers, Lockheed is a Marvel staple, and singlehandedly more useful that Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion put together. Daenerys is an terrible mother of dragons, and the state should intervene and debate whether she’s fit for dragon parenthood. With a dragon like Lockheed, if Kitty Pryde were born Targaryen Westoros would’ve been at peace 3 kings ago.

Direwolves (Game of Thrones)

Lady, Ghost, Nymeria, Summer, Shaggydog, and Greywind – if there are any nerd pets that’ve proven their fearlessness, it’s these six. Grey Wind rode hard for Robb Stark for battle after battle even though he knew his master was dumb. Every time an arrow grazed his ass he probably looked at Robb with wolf side-eye, like “None of this is necessary. You are dumb, my god, you are dumb. I can’t believe we’re doing this again. But I’ma ride with you though – you see that? Just dropped my 14th body, I’ma ride out. But seriously though, she better be worth it.” She wasn’t, and they died at the Red Wedding, but at least they died together. Well actually they weren’t together, Robb had him tied up outside where he was shot to death with arrows. My god, Robb was a terrible pet owner. If Robb Stark lived today the adoption agency would take Grey Wind back and put dude’s name on a watch list. Direwolves are the pets adopted by those friends who you know shouldn’t own pets.

Epona (Legend of Zelda)

Epona is DA GAWD of rescue on Legend of Zelda when you need a ride. Link would catch himself in the Hyrule Field without a whip and be like “unleash the flutes on ‘em, Guru!” and Epona’s Song would start playing, and homegirl would come running to wisp you away. Loyal and beautiful, she came when you needed and negated so much damage that you loved her like you’re Tina Belcher. Epona’s the definition of “faithful steed.”

Yoshi (Nintendo)

Yoshi is underrated tough. Let’s face it – dude was abused by Mario. You can’t count the number of times he took that L so Mario could live. Mario did him so dirty I imagine Luigi snuck him food at night when Mario was sleeping. Mario be like “if you feed him the meat-a-balls then he won’t be hungry to eat my enemies,” then he’d jump on my man’s back and Yoshi would start trotting. All that changed when my man got some autonomy in later games, and started power-sliding in his own race kart and brawling on Smash Bros. Yoshi is that pet in a foster home you want to save because you know you’d treat him better, and dude would reward you with eggs and 1-UPS not because you force him, but because he loves you.

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  • Jordan Calhoun is a writer in New York City. His forthcoming debut book "Piccolo Is Black" is a celebration of the common adaptations we made while non-diverse pop culture helped us form identities. He holds a B.A. in Sociology and Criminal Justice, B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Japanese, and an M.P.A. in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy. He might solve a mystery, or rewrite history. Find him on Instagram and Twitter @JordanMCalhoun

  • Show Comments

  • Nigel Wade

    Epona made the list but Ein from “Cowboy Bebop” didn’t? #shenanigans

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