The scars beneath his shaggy fur reveal the story of his lonely past, surviving on the streets, begging for food, the regular victim of scraps with top dogs on his turf.
But today little Bobby’s life couldn’t have transformed more dramatically.
His is a canine rags to riches story to rival any human’s – and thanks to a particularly unlikely doggy benefactor: Cruella De Vil.
Just months after he was rescued from the streets of Cyprus by a charity, the stray found himself in the care of Hollywood animal trainer Julie Tottman and auditioning for the role of a lifetime.
Julie, who regularly uses rescue animals for movie roles, was contacted by the charity which needed to find Bobby a home.
Convinced of his star quality, she put him up for the part of Buddy, sidekick of the evil Dalmatian-hunter, played by Oscar winner Emma Stone, in new Disney film Cruella.
Luckily, Bobby’s shaggy little face and gingery ears were a hit with casting agents for the prequel to the 101 Dalmatians blockbuster.
But although the promise of endless treats must have been dazzling, best of all he found a forever home with Julie and a friend for life in actress Emma.
Speaking ahead of the release of Cruella yesterday, Julie says Bobby will be the breakout star of the movie, even if he isn’t a Dalmatian…
“Bobby is one of the easiest rescue animals I have worked with,” she says.
“He’s so natural, he picks the acting up and he thrives doing it.
“You get a bit more on set from a rescue animal because it’s like they have seen the bad and are so grateful, and they love and adore you for saving them.
“I always cry, it’s lovely when they do their first scene knowing where they have come from.
“The world writes them off but I know from experience that rescues are often the hardest working, most loyal and loving animals.”
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The trainer reveals Emma was “absolutely besotted” with Bobby and wrote him a thank you letter for being a top star. She adds: “She would have definitely taken him but he’s not going anywhere!”
Little is known about Bobby’s past but when he was found by Rehoming Cyprus Dogs, run by Brit Helen McGarry, in 2019, he was malnourished and nervous.
With few animal shelters, strays are regularly dumped on the island’s streets.
“When they found him he was extremely underweight, and nervous of men, indicating he had been mistreated,” Julie says. “He was a typical scabby street dog, he’s still got scars.”
The charity struggled to rehome him then offered the then two-year-old to Julie, a regular contact, in March 2019.
She has four dogs at home, and runs a farm with cats, chickens, foxes, deer, crows, ravens and owls, all trained for movie roles. The pair clicked and, two months later, Julie tried Bobby out for the part of Buddy.
The trainer has worked with hundreds of animals across scores of movies, including the Harry Potter series starring Hagrid’s dog Fang, also a rescue, Hermione’s cat Crookshanks and all the owls.
She also trained the white cat in James Bond’s Spectre, pigeons in Paddington, and even squirrels in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as Dalmatian pups in the 1996 live-action movie 101 Dalmatians.
Working in the movie industry for 30 years, Julie uses toys and food to entice animals to obey commands.
For Bobby, this included learning to catch a necklace star Emma would throw to him, crawl under a table and carry a sandwich bag to deliver her lunch.
Julie explains: “He and Emma spent on average five hours a day together.
“My biggest problem was how much Emma loved him because she was such a distraction, she would get him all excited.
“Even in between filming she always came and sat with Bobby, she was infatuated. Every moment she could be with him she was, which was great for me because it helps with the performance.”
His biggest moment took a month of training when the rescue dog had to turn rescuer, saving Cruella, tied up with rope to a chair, from a fire.
This involved takes with a blue screen and body double, and some with Emma with flame machines.
“She falls on the floor and they wanted him pulling on the ropes,” explains Julie, proudly.
“He really did untie her – obviously I tied it in a dog-friendly way but he was pulling it apart, tugging on it.”
The film’s resident chihuahua, Wink, belonging to Cruella’s accomplices Jasper and Horace, is also played by one of Julie’s rescue animals, Dixie.
“She and Bobby got on very well, she was the boss,” she says.
Julie, who began working in movie animal training after taking a job in a grooming parlour when she left school, used her first rescue animals in 101 Dalmatians, which involved training more than 50 puppies.
She has now rescued some 100 animals, mainly dogs and cats but also a squirrel which starred in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, alongside Johnny Depp, cracking nuts to “test if they were good or bad”.
Up there with Bobby for star quality was Monkey, the Neapolitan mastiff who played Fang – owned by Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) – in Harry Potter.
He was rescued from neglectful owners and started living and working with Julie from the third film, replacing another mastiff, Hugo.
“Robbie was great with him, and he was all the kids’ favourite,” she says.
And what next for Bobby? Julie says he’s already won his next film role but, like the true star he now is, she assures me he is “not allowed to say what”.
- Julie Tottman’s latest book, Rescue Me published by Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, is out now. Cruella is also out in cinemas now.