I know the dolphins and sea lions don't quite realize the possible danger they're in, but even so, I think it's way cool that they can do this. For this honor, they are now on my top four list of Best Non-Human Mammals. (Sharing space with dogs and elephants.)
("Best" here means "most useful to humans.")
(No, I will not add cats to this list.)
Edit, 3/26/03, roughly 12:40 p.m.:
OK, look, people:
This is MY list of best mammals; you guys can like cats better than dogs for whatever crazy reasons you want. You just won't convince me. Because I'd like you to show me cats who sniff out drugs/bombs/criminals/missing persons, guide the blind down the street, herd sheep/cattle, bring medical supplies to people on battlefields or in avalanches and lie down beside them to keep them warm, or jump into icy water and haul a drowning person to shore.
You might find a few individual cats who can be trained to do some of these things. But you will find, for every one of those cats, whole armies of dogs who can do the same thing, and do it willingly.
Yes, there are stupid useless dogs out there. Lots of them. Yes, cats can be pretty and soft and warm, and when they're not being schizophrenic they can actually be friendly. But on average, dogs blow cats out of the water in terms of actual applied usefulness to and cooperation with humans. I just do not find this disputable. We've spent a lot more time breeding dogs for specifically these uses. Maybe equal breeding with cats (start with a larger variety, I'd suggest, like tigers) would someday return the same results; who knows.
By the way, Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein would probably agree with all you cat-lovers and dog-despisers. Islamic fundamentalists usually revere cats but hate dogs. Quite frequent to have dogs banned and killed in some of the more brutal Islamic countries. I think this tells us a lot. ;)