Pets are a staple of almost every television household, making for trusty sidekicks, dependable comic relief, and comforting ears that (usually) don’t talk back. But some on-screen animal stars are more than just housemates, with affable personalities and plot lines of their own. The inspiring owner-pet relationships that we celebrate after the jump establish a real equity and rapport between cross-species co-stars and make us reevaluate a pet’s role in the home. Which of your favorite actors yield from the animal kingdom?
Marcel from Friends
After a devastating divorce from his ex-wife Carol, Ross takes a hiatus from traditional relationships and decides to settle into married life with a Capuchin monkey, Marcel, instead. The two grow to love each other but only get along slightly better than Ross and his ex, scuffling over broken objects, rerecorded answering machine messages, the usual. Ross eventually has to part with his roommate when Marcel reaches sexual maturity and becomes too much to handle. But he later discovers, proudly, that Marcel has gone on to a live a life of fame, starring in an action movie and as the mascot of a brewery.
Dino from The Flintstones
While the snorkasaurus is clearly subordinate to his master, Fred, the relationship between this caveman and his pet dino is a blueprint for the special bond between future generations of men and their dogs. Man’s ur-best friend, Dino is differentiated from the work dinosaurs on Bedrock’s construction sites; he is a beloved pet and member of the Flintstone family, and while Fred often gets annoyed with Dino’s dog-like manner, he also has a soft spot for the wet kisses and wagging tail he comes home to every evening after work.
Nothing the Millers can do will save careless, little Jeff Miller — and later, Timmy — from his own mischief, but Lassie comes pretty close. The show’s repetitive plot (boy gets into trouble in wild; dog comes to boy’s rescue) remains surprisingly heart-warming throughout its 17 seasons. Lassie is the ultimate beacon of loyalty, never leaving her master to be eaten by bears or drown in a river, even though, by the time season two rolls around, he has it coming. Lassie is more than just a farm pet; she is more able than most towns’ entire police forces.
Lassie with fins, pretty much, Flipper is the aquatic guardian of the Floridian preserve the Rick family watches over as well as a friend and caretaker of the two adolescent Rick boys, Sandy and Bud. Flipper has an unusual intelligence, used to save perpetually at-risk neighboring humans and sea creatures, though the true hero in this bizarro world is the lack of language barrier that allows conversation to flow freely between English speakers and squawkers.
Murray from Mad About You
The Buchmans’ border collie is, plainly, a clumsy dog. But that’s what makes him stand out against the sea of anthropomorphic canine superheroes we generally see on TV, earning his spotlight, instead, as a realistic man’s best friend. His slapstick shtick — chasing an invisible mouse into walls — rather than an ability to talk, solve crime, or save lives, makes him one of our favorites.
Rowdy from Scrubs
JD and Turk’s dog Rowdy is, unlike Murray, as unreal as you can get. The taxidermied pet is nonetheless the perfect one for the irresponsible best friends. To JD and Turk, the dead dog — who is, like everything else about the show, a running Scrubs fan joke — has a personality, emotions, and even medical conditions. To everyone else, he’s the creepy stuffed dog Turk and JD plant in random, jarring places.
Spunky from Rocko’s Modern Life
Everything goes in the world of animation — including the strange phenomenon of animals who have pets of their own. Of these interspecies relationships, Rocko and his lovable and endearing, but also dumb and disgusting, pet dog Spunky share one of the most exemplary. Spunky regularly gets lost, eaten, or worse; drinks his own saliva, mistaking it for water; and crawls awkwardly across the floor. But the wallaby loves him nonetheless, playing with him, caring for him, and, of course, reserving half the bed for him.
Scooby Doo from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
The speech-impaired, English-speaking dog and his stoner master have, through time, bonded over their standard daily routine — get scared by ghost, get separated from rest of group, sate munchies, coincidentally solve crime, find out, again, that ghost is really just murderous neighbor on voracious killing rampage. (Phew.) What sets this human-dog crime-solving dream team apart from the shockingly many others on television is that their relationship is not founded on business. The two are naturally drawn to each other as friends and nurturers; Shaggy always remembers to carry a Scooby snack, and not once has Scooby dropped a teeth-chattering Shaggy when the overgrown kid jumps into his arms.
Brandon from Punky Brewster
Abandoned by both her mother and her father, Punky Brewster has grown up with Brandon and come to rely on him as a friend, protector, and sole family member. Even when Punky is adopted by the manager of the apartment she squatted in, Brandon continued to play an integral role in her life — and in the show, even getting his own plot line. The last episode of Punky Brewster is not as much a finale for Punky as it is for Brandon, who falls in love with a Golden Retriever and gets hitched in a garden wedding Punky throws together.
Porkchop from Doug
Some Doug viewers consider Skeeter to be Doug’s partner in crime, but Doug has no closer kin than his dog, Porkchop. The series chronicles the life of a boy who moves towns when his father is promoted at work, and Porkchop is the only friend who sees Doug through this transition, start to end. But Doug does not forget about Porkchop once he’s settled in and made friends in Bluffington. He continues to rely on Porkchop as a friend, confidante, and, quite often, savior. Wherever one goes, the other follows; even Doug’s alter egos have Porkchop alter ego companions.
Spike from Rugrats
Perhaps the most joyous canine in television history, the Pickles’ dog Spike is intensely loyal to his master Tommy, and always ready to take part in the Rugrats’ misadventures. Why Tommy’s parents don’t mind their dog giving their infant piggyback rides into the neighbors’ yard and covering him in spit remains an unanswered question.
Petey from The Little Rascals
The poor, endearing children of The Little Rascals had no more endearing a gang member that Pete the Pup, the famous pitbull with the ring around his eye. Petey’s legacy is resilient, surviving a name change — from Pansy to Pete — and even the death of the character’s original actor, who was poisoned.
Brian Griffin from Family Guy
The anthropomorphic dog figure is often exploited to demonstrate his master’s inferior intelligence, but that paradigm is taken to an extreme in Family Guy, in which it’s sometimes easier to picture Peter Griffin wagging his tail than Brown-educated struggling writer/dog Brian. Brian has a human son, and often gets romantically involved with human women, further blurring the relationships between species.
Igor from The Munsters
Unlike the Munsters’ family pet dragon Spot, Igor the bat belongs to Grandpa alone, often acting as a sort of lab rat in his basement/dungeon laboratory. It’s clear that the two belong together; even in The Munsters figurines, like the ones pictured above, Igor and Grandpa come as a pair. The curmudgeonly Igor is sensitive and often picks fights with Grandpa, creating a three-dimensional, believable friendship — which is pretty impressive for a character that was nothing more than plastic figure on a string. Like a true, long-time friend, Grandpa is fit to handle Igor’s tantrums. Doubling as a Transylvanian vampire also known as Count Dracula, Grandpa can empathize with the bat and even turn into one himself.
Brain from Inspector Gadget
Inspector Gadget may have had the trench coat and the contraptions, but the bionic man didn’t have the brains to put them to use. His niece Penny and her appropriately named pet dog Brain were the real masterminds behind his mystery cases. Unlike Shaggy and Scooby’s, their bond is based on the business of solving crime, but they stimulate each other intellectually and make a great team, from which a lovely friendship developes naturally.