Bath at work: Nicola Cragg, animal care manager at BCDH
From a young age my dream was to work with animals – and I’m lucky enough to say that dreams really do come true. Growing up in Melksham, I was surrounded by family pets. We had cats, hamsters, rabbits, mice, fish and dogs. At 16 my aim was to become a guide-dog trainer and on leaving school I started a two-year national diploma in animal care at Lackham College, staying on for two more years to study a higher national diploma in animal science.
My first break came when I was offered a role with the MOD looking after the military working dogs. I stayed there for 13 years, but sadly in 2013 the dog section was made redundant, and with time on my hands I put my knowledge to good use by volunteering at Bath Cats and Dogs Home. Within a few weeks I’d been offered a role as an animal carer and the rest, as they say, is history. Six years on and I’m proud to be the home’s animal care manager.
Working in animal rescue can be tough. It is often physically draining and emotionally challenging, but I couldn’t be prouder of the BCDH team. Working closely with our local RSPCA inspectors, we prioritise those animals in urgent need. It’s heartbreaking to see the state animals can arrive in, either through intentional cruelty or neglect through lack of understanding.
We rescue, rehabilitate and rehome over 1,300 unwanted, abandoned and cruelly treated dogs, cats and small animals each year. Without the support of the local community none of this would be possible and I will be forever grateful to those who support our work and enable our team to save these animals.
As you can imagine, I’ve fallen in love with many animals in our care, including Meg, a challenging but kind-hearted Doberman who I was able to gain the trust of and cried many happy tears for when she went to her new home. This type of dog would never be given a chance if it wasn’t for Bath Cats and Dogs Home, as most rescue centres would turn them away. I’m so proud of the work we do. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing that scared, growling dog who you first meet transform into a happy confident one who finds their forever home.
Of course, I couldn’t work in rescue without taking animals home with me. I have a French bulldog called King Louis and a jug called Theo. It’s surprising who takes hold of your heart as these aren’t the large breeds I’ve always loved. Louis was in a bad way when I met him – he was very underweight, hardly able to walk due to muscle wastage, he had ear and eye infections and struggled to breathe, the result of an unscrupulous puppy farmer, but he is flourishing now. He came home with me as a foster arrangement and never left.
Rescue isn’t a job; it’s a way of life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’d ask anyone reading this to please find out more about ways to support Bath Cats and Dogs Home at bcdh.org.uk and, thanks to you, we’ll be able to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome many more animals in need.