I use a dragontouched robe socketed with a +4 insight AC sovereign rune and +1 alchemical ritual added. This nets 11 total AC, but I always make clear where the boni come from different sources (one the robe itself, one the rune, one the ritual -- I could still use the robe with +8 bracers and maintain the same AC).
I actually use Faithful Hound path at higher levels for the extra to-hit, because I run so much epic content. None of the other paths particularly excite me, and I vary between 2-3 tiers depending on what my other enhancements are. I liked the tortoise for the little bit of extra HP help.
I'm the type of person that always has on whichever resist I need from a stack of potions, but I know a lot of people who love monkey.