Crockdur, Hagrid’s dog in Harry Potter, has arrived on the big screen (and settled in the hearts of millions of viewers and fans of the saga, but also of the entire cast of the film) thanks to the trainer of animals Julie Tottman, who never doubted the potential of a Neapolitan Mastiff named Monkey, despite the fact that life was not easy for both of them.
According to The Sun, Mr Tottman says she had a special bond with the dog from the first moment she saw him. “I had an immediate connection with him. When I found him he was desperately malnourished and in need of love and attention. I had no idea if that would make him a good dog for the movie, but I knew I couldn’t help but try,” said the trainer, who has also “found” the perfect animals to play roles in ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘101 Dalmatians’.
Julie Tottman was the head trainer of the animals in the ‘Harry Potter’ saga. Between 2000 and 2011, she trained over 250 animals, from owls to cats and even spiders. However, she was won over by Crockdur, Hagrid’s dog, played by the late Robbie Coltrane, when their fates crossed at an animal welfare charity a few weeks before filming began on one of the films based on the characters. books by British author JK Rowling.
Crockdur didn’t have an easy life
In fact, Monkey hasn’t had an easy life. The trainer tells in one of her books (Rescue Me) how she managed to transform an abused, rebellious and hungry dog into a movie star.
Monkey is the Neapolitan Mastiff who played the role of Crockdur from the fourth episode of the saga. In the first three films, Hugo, another dog of the same breed, played the role. However, a few weeks before filming for ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ began, the dog trainer decided to retire Hugo.
According to Julie Tottman, it is not easy to find a dog with these characteristics because it is a rare breed and some dogs are not easy to work with. Also, the trainer tries to use rescued animals whenever possible in order to give them a second chance, a better life.
Therefore, with time playing against her, Julie Tottman started an obstacle course by contacting various dog rescue charities.
”I’ve always tried to use rescue animals for movies….. It breaks my heart to think of the cruelty and neglect humans can inflict on animals, but whatever the horrors a creature has been through, a little kindness and careful training can make them stars,” the trainer said.
It wasn’t easy to find Crockdur
After weeks of searching for the “perfect” dog, Tottman was lucky enough to find an association that specialized in rescuing mastiffs. They had a Neapolitan Mastiff there, the same blue color as Hugo, the first dog that played Crockdur.
But the good news had a downside: its former owner had abandoned it on the grounds that it was aggressive, a characteristic that made it unsuitable for a shoot full of children.
However, the trainer let her instincts guide her and decided to take the dog (named Hercules at the time) to start working with him. She was very clear that she wanted to give him a second chance because, as she explains in her book, many owners say the dog is aggressive, but that’s just an excuse to get angry. get rid of it.
As soon as she laid eyes on Monkey, as she renamed him, she knew she had been right. The doggie would do.
A bag of bones
But despite his energy and zest for life, the dog was in a pitiful state. As Tottman recalls in his manuscript: “He was incredibly thin, like a bag of bones (…) It broke my heart to see how starved and abandoned he must have been by his former owners.”
After several days of cohabitation with Monkey, whom she named after his “mischievous and cheeky character”, she realized that he was not at all aggressive. Just as she had felt the first time she saw him, it was just an excuse for his owners to abandon him. The dog was loving and affectionate.
“He looked at me with such kindness that I immediately knew everything I had heard about his aggressive side had to be wrong. I realized he was a dog that just wanted to be loved.
A race against time
When Tottman saw Monkey’s affable and gentle nature, she knew there would be no problem with the children during filming, even if time was against her for her upbringing. This recently rescued Neapolitan Mastiff needed a good diet to regain his strength, attention and a way to channel his energy.
According to the trainer, in her book, the time frame from when she meets the dog, begins to train him, and takes him to the set is at least 12 weeks. She and Monkey arrived on the set of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” in half the time.
“Normally, if I was starting from scratch with a new dog, I would want to work with him for at least twelve weeks before taking him on set, starting with establishing a simple relationship before moving on to simple commands and, finally, to the specific moves he would need for the film. The Goblet of Fire started in less than half that time,” she wrote in Rescue Me.
Monkey made the whole team happy
The trainer told in her book how Monkey went from being a “class clown” to a star who thrilled Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), two of the stars of the saga.
However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any setbacks during filming. For example, on one occasion, Monkey pounced on a prized automaton dragon, thinking it was a dog toy. Fortunately, it was just a scare and the precious accessory was not damaged too much.
“He was a big goofy dog who had a knack for making you laugh,” his owner said.
A sad farewell
In 2013, Monkey passed away after suffering from cancer. The news came as a bit of a shock to the cast of Harry Potter, as he was highly regarded.
So much so that it has its own tribute at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, near Watford (UK). On site, a video of Monkey training with Tottman is projected on a wall.
“His personality shines through on screen. Even though we had to say goodbye to him, I know he will live on for the fans and the people who remember him, and for me, that’s the real magic.” his trainer and his human “mom”.
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