Labor is unpredictable. Expectant mothers always have a rough idea of when their little ones are set to enter the world, but they can never be totally sure. Clearly, that’s true for all species. A service dog named Eleanor Rigby had a ‘ruff’ travel day when she unexpectedly gave birth to eight puppies in the middle of the Tampa International Airport. She was joined by a crowd of onlookers, her owner, and even the puppies’ father, Golden Nugget.
Two-year-old Eleanor, or ‘Ellie’ as she’s nicknamed, was on a trip to Florida with her owner, Diane Van Atter, and Nugget, a fellow service dog. The two labrador retrievers assist Van Atter with pain and mobility issues. Van Atter told Fox 13 she knew her service dog was pregnant and that her due date was approaching, but thought they had time to make it home to Philadelphia before the birth. They were at the airport with Van Atter’s stepmother, Karen James, when nature took its course and Ellie went into labor.
Luckily, Tampa Fire Rescue had a medical team on site at the airport. Two paramedics quickly jumped in to assist with the surprise labor. They documented the birth on Twitter, sharing photos and updates.
Karen James spoke to media over the phone while Ellie gave birth. She suspects the excitement of being inside an airport may have been what triggered Ellie’s labor. She tried her best to concentrate on her phone call with the Tampa Bay Times while holding Nugget on a leash, but the excitement of the births cut the call short. ‘Another one just came out!’ James said over the phone. ‘I have to go, the father is getting excited. Every time she’s ready to deliver another one he starts jumping around.’
Onlookers in the busy airport couldn’t help but take a few minutes from their hectic day to stop and witness the happy event. With each puppy that was delivered, applause from the crowd (and barks from Nugget) rang through TPA’s Gate F80. After a three-hour delivery, Ellie had given birth to eight healthy puppies: seven males, and one female. ‘I’ve never seen anything like this in an airport, or otherwise,’ airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps told the Tampa Bay Times. ‘No planes were delayed during the three-hour event, and Twitter was loving the hashtag “#AirportPuppies.’
The two paramedics who assisted the birth, PM Larry Glanton and Lt. Natalie Brown spoke to Fox 13 following the delivery. It seems they had the honor of naming two of the puppies. ‘They have our names, of course,’ Brown revealed to Fox 13. ‘The last one’s Natalie, it’s a girl!’ Glanton shared that pup number two would also be named Larry.
Not surprisingly, Van Atter and her two adorable helpers missed their flight. With the puppies being newborns, flying with them is off the table. The Miami Herald reported that Van Atter, along with her ten companions, is planning to make the 1,000-mile trip back to Philadelphia by car.