Woman who delivers guide dogs as a puppy midwife has the best job in the world

(Picture: PA Real Life)

Mum-of-two Nicole Bottomley, 58, has the best job in the world.

She’s part of a specialist team at Guide Dogs UK who help deliver 1,400 dogs every year.

Yes, she’s a guide dog midwife and we want to quit our jobs immediately and sign up.

Nicole, who is from Morton Morrel in Warwickshire, has been working for the charity since she was 18.

She became a ‘brood bitch supervisor’ three years ago, when she was at the Guide Dogs’ National Breeding Centre (NBC) in Leamington Spa.

‘I grew up in the town, so I used to see the dogs out in training in and around the area,’ Nicole said.

‘Even when I was at school, I knew I wanted to work with them.

There weren’t any vacancies at that point though, so I worked for a short while at a veterinary practice, before progressing to Guide Dogs UK, where I have been ever since.’

Nicole with one of the puppies she helped deliver (Collect/PA Real Life)
(Picture: PA Real Life)

Nicole said: ‘The dogs are very rewarding and I love supporting our volunteer families. It’s amazing bringing these little puppies into the world knowing they are, hopefully, going to go on and become life changers.’

Starting out as a kennel assistant for the charity, Nicole, who has a Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen dog called Gavin, worked her way up to a managerial role, before moving over to the breeding centre as their new dog care manager.

Leaving for a while to have her children Jack and Grace, who are now 24 and 20 years old respectively, she returned part-time.

But soon after, she went full-time again and joined her current team.

They visit dogs at volunteers’ homes, where they are being cared for and also help deliver puppies.

Nicole lives with her husband Matthew Bottomley, who is head of breeding operations at Guide Dogs UK.

She said: ‘We are there every step of the way, from the time the bitch is mated.

‘We go back after four weeks and conduct an ultrasound scan to confirm that she is pregnant and get an estimate of the size of her litter.’

One of the puppies Nicole helped to deliver (Collect/PA Real Life)
(Picture: PA Real Life)

Nicole said: ‘Once she has her puppies, we do litter visits during the weeks that the pups are out in the nest, before bringing them back to the breeding centre at six weeks, when we vaccinate and microchip them, then settling them into kennels.

‘They are here for a week before they move on to their puppy walking homes, which can be anywhere around the country.’

The dogs are given basic training with their puppy walker, who teaches them how to walk ahead on the lead and understand commands such as sit, stay, down and come.

They are also taken to cafes and shops to help acclimate them to social situations.

At training school, when they are 12 months old, Puppies learn to walk in a straight line, stop at curbs and wait for the command to cross or turn left or right.

Once they graduate, they are matched with an owner who will do the training with them for another four weeks.

The puppies (Collect/PA Real Life)
(Picture: PA Real Life)

Nicole said: ‘Being there when the dogs are giving birth is really the best bit.

‘Most births go smoothly with no problems. We are there to support if there are complications.

‘Last year, we had one mum who was very poorly after the birth. She had six puppies and we ended up having to split them and they were fostered by two other mums.

‘It can be a lot of thinking on your feet and can be quite stressful, but I love it.’

Nicole helps to deliver puppies and helps to care for them until they start training (Collect/PA Real Life)
(Picture: PA Real Life)

While the delivery is a team effort for her and the other midwives, Nicole explains that the volunteer families are crucial to the whole process.

She said: ‘We have so many wonderful volunteers that I get to meet. They do an absolutely fantastic job.

‘At the moment, we have about 1,400 puppies a year. We have 280 bitches and about 90 studs.

‘That’s a lot of puppies and the aim is for as many as possible to become guide dogs. For some, it doesn’t suit their temperament but they are redirected to other UK charities or rehomed as family pets.

‘We are constantly looking for new volunteer homes within an hour of the centre, where someone is not in full-time employment, so the dog isn’t left for more than three hours and where they are able to devote six weeks to a litter of puppies once a year.’

While some people think Nicole is mad for devoting her life to dogs, she remains adamant that it is the perfect role for her.

She said: ‘So many people say work’s a bitch, but I work with bitches and have the best job in the world.’