The winner of my Lions' Pride contest--randomly chosen by Random by rolling a D20--is Kari Thomas. Congratulations!
Thanks to everyone for all the wacky shifter suggestions. My Muse has them all under consideration, although she's telling something like a squirrel or a lemur would have to be a sidekick. (Nothing wrong with that. Heroes and heroines need buddies and think what a lemur's tiny opposable thumbs and disarming cuteness could do in the cause of righteousness.) Bird of prey, sea critter and mongoose are the top choices, or maybe a hyena who wants to "go straight", but we'll see what my Muse decides to do with all of them. I have to say I love the whale idea, but for the insanely cool great whales, the logistics don't work.