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Greyfriars Bobby: an enduring tale of fidelity


‘Greyfriars Bobby’, looking suitably winsome and dishevelled!

THE STORY of Greyfriars Bobby is well known to all dog fanciers and almost everyone else too. There are times in history when dogs have shown outstanding loyalty towards man; this is a true story of unparalleled devotion. Most of us have probably seen the original film but the new version is just as much of a tear jerker as that had been in its day.

The star of the film is Bobby the Westie, the family pet dog of Gerry and Cathy Cott.

Gerry Cott is a very gentle man who was born in Ireland into a farming family, so dogs have been part of his life for almost all of his life. His parents kept collies and cattle dogs, and in the 50’s there were Cocker Spaniels too. His aunts and uncles were also farmers and even when visiting his family the young Gerry would find himself off walking with their dogs; so dog training came into his life in a gentle and unstructured way from his early days.

In the 70’s Gerry came to England with his friends and he made his way to fame as the drummer in their group, the Boomtown Rats. Their success in the music industry is well known, and the fact that their Westie is called Bobby is based on the film, any other connection is purely coincidental, however many people have made the connection and Gerry admitted to often calling Bobby ‘Bob’.
Gerry’s wife Cathy was also brought up with dogs and horses so training was a family interest.
Gerry and Cathy were aware of the programme of training advocated by Barbara Woodhouse, as were most people at that time, but they preferred the methods which were developing in America with Bollard and others who felt a more gentle approach had better results.

They read books and attended seminars by John Fisher and Karen Prior on training and the principals of partnership and understanding worked well for them. They had a tri-coloured border collie called Marley (called after Bob Marley who had died in 1981). Markey was outgoing and affable and had the ideal temperament for training and this was their first dog to do a commercial; he was a PAL dog with the catchphrase Protects Active Life.


Bobby’s owners spent months familiarising him with cattle so the scene with the bull posed no problems

Rapport

The agents were so pleased with the rapport that Gerry was asked to train other breeds too and these have included Retrievers, Labradors and Setters.

It was at this time that training became a more structured business and the results of their clicker training are plain for all to see.

Bobby is a real star, both at home and on screen. His dishevelled appearance is well suited to his role of how this type of dog would have looked at the beginning of the last century, but that is how Gerry and Cathy like him and it wasn’t just for the film. The picture was started in October last year and took about 7 weeks, with 85% of the film being recorded in Stirling and the rest being completed in Edinburgh.

One of Bobby’s most daunting moments came in his scene with the bull, and to overcome any problems, Gerry and Cathy had spent several months introducing him to cattle, so when it came to the shooting he was relaxed and found it quite normal.

Using the clicker method, Bobby responded well to his training and at almost three years of age he is just a natural star. The film premiers in the UK on 10th February next year, I am sure that it will be a great success, and that this will be the first of many outings in front of the cameras for Bobby.