“Won £100,000 as head puppy trainer on 102 Dalmatians”
Julie Tottman, 51, has worked as an animal trainer and trainer on feature films including the Harry Potter franchise, 102 Dalmatians, the 2005 version of Lassie, Nanny McPhee, Mamma Mia!, Peter Rabbit 2, Paddington and Casino Royale , the TV series Game of Thrones and commercials. She lives with her family in Hertfordshire.
How did your childhood influence your attitude towards money?
I lived in a council house in Harrow, North London, with a sister and a brother. My mother was an accounting secretary and my father worked for the ambulance service. We had pocket money but we had to work for it, do the dishes. I trained as a dog groomer, earning £28 a week which rose to £35 in the second year.
We have learned to save and not to take out loans because you never know what is coming your way. We knew we didn’t have what the other kids had, but we were happy because we knew what we got our parents worked hard to give us.
When did animals become your job?
After working for a grooming salon, a friend’s dad made a low-budget movie and asked me to bring a dog. At 20, I started working on films for very little money on my days off. It has become my passion. Then I worked for the Stunt Dogs company for seven years.
In 1995 the American company Birds & Animals came to the UK to film 101 Dalmatians, hiring local animal trainers. They hired me part-time, then came back in 1999 for 102 Dalmatians and hired me full-time to be their head trainer.
This led to 10 years on Harry Potter and it just got better and better.
Have you invested in real estate?
I bought my first house, a former council house in Uxbridge, in 2002. It wasn’t very nice, but I was so proud to have it. I made a profit of £150,000 when I sold it.
In 2008 I bought a cottage in Long Marston, near Tring, for £200,000. I sold it in 2013 for £495,000 because it’s close to London and property prices had skyrocketed. Then I moved in with my partner and paid off what was left of his mortgage to be mortgage free.
Then foolishly in 2017 we bought Long Marston’s village pub, the Queen’s Head. There’s always a famous dog in there, like Bobbie (Buddy from the movie Cruella) and quite often a pug called Harley, who starred in Patrick.
Have you had trouble paying your bills?
When I got my first house, I piled up the bills. It was so depressing. As soon as I had some money, I would open an envelope and pay that bill. I was three months behind on my mortgage and ate jacket potatoes, baked beans and tuna every night. I was really excited because on film sets I had good food.
Do you own animals?
I have owned a lot. Some dogs live with me and I have an 18 acre farm. We find the animals in rescue centers as much as we can, invest a lot of time in training and find family homes for them.
My village is full of dogs that have been in a movie or commercial. We have all kinds that come out regularly: birds, foxes, sheep, chickens, cats, crows, ravens, seagulls, pigeons, owls, deer, squirrels and rats – rats work hard.