Land. Sea. Air. I have three favorite animals, one from each.
Land – The Dog
Dogs have been domesticated far longer than humans have known how to write, the estimates for domestication dates range wildly. There is existing archeological evidence that humans had domesticated dogs 15,000 years ago, but DNA evidence is inclusive; one study concludes that dogs and wolves parted company somewhere between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago, and another between 100,000 and 140,000 years ago (as Wikipedia points out, both studies rely upon a number of assumptions that may be incorrect). The long and the short of it is we don’t know, but it was a looooong time ago, certainly before mankind domesticated the horse, the elephant, the cat, or any one of a number of other domesticated species.
It may be debatable if a dog is man’s best friend, but dogdom is certainly humankind’s longest standing ally; it’s likely that we made it through the last glacial period together. Dogs have been part of human society for so long that we began genetic engineering of the species before humans knew what DNA was or formalized the idea of heredity, and they’ve been tasked as pack animals, herding taskmasters, security alarms, hunting companions, weapons inspectors, soldiers, and biological pre-robotic semi-autonomous service drones.
Sea – The Sea Otter
More specifically, the southern sea otter, E. l. nereis, the goofy looking fellas you see off the coast here in California. Why? Because they use tools, a characteristic otherwise limited almost exclusively to primates. And unlike other aquatic mammals, they don’t rely on fat for insulation; they’re not loudmouthed out of shape couch potatoes like sea lions. And besides, you have to be some kind of nutter to not find this nauseatingly cute:
Air – The Great Horned Owl
When I was growing up in San Jose, there was a Great Horned Owl that nested somewhere in our neighborhood. I always thought it was a barn owl, since they were more common in the area, but after listening to a rather exhaustive list of owl hoots and calls I can state with a pretty high degree of certainty that yeppers, that owl was of the Great and Horned variety.
He (or she, or they) most likely had their roost in the gigantic pine tree that we had in our front yard… it was at least a 50 footer if it was an inch. After my parents moved out of the house in late 1988, the next owner cut down that tree, certainly a foolish decision since that tree provided enough shade to keep the house very cool in the summer. Years later I drove past the house just to see the old neighborhood, and seeing that tree was gone always made me wonder what happened to that owl. It also made me feel sad for whatever kids were growing up in the neighborhood, not having that “hoo-hoo— hoo” soundtrack for the twilight hours. H.P. Lovecraft and the like are probably nowhere near as terrifying without that ambient background noise.