Lifestyle & Human Interest

Service Dog Goes into Labor, Gives Birth to 8 Puppies in Middle of Airport


Travelers at the Tampa International Airport got quite the show on Friday as they got ready to board, moseyed around, or deplaned.

As they passed Gasparilla Bar they could see a crowd gathered, made up of both other flyers and security-vested paramedics.

Generally, this would signal some sort of problem. Whenever emergency personnel are around, it’s safe to assume that someone is experiencing medical distress.

But they weren’t circled around a person. They were crowded around a dog. A golden retriever, to be exact.

Diane Van Atter, the owner of the pup, was front and center assisting her dog, named Eleanor Rigby. Ellie, as she was known, was a service dog in training.

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Golden Nugget, another golden retriever, was a trained service dog and stood to watch nearby. Van Atter reportedly has mobility issues and uses the service dogs for assistance.

But the reason they were all huddled around was Ellie was currently giving birth.

Tampa Fire Rescue paramedics arrived to help out, and a nearby nurse even pitched in until her flight boarded. It was a strange sight as the retriever birthed eight puppies in the middle of the airport, but the opportunity for photos was not lost on passers-by and staff.

“Ruff day for this mama at Gate F80!” the airport quipped on their Twitter account. “With the help of ARFF paramedics, service dog Eleanor Rigby just delivered 8 pups -7 males, 1 female.”

While many were overjoyed at the unexpected sight of puppies, many were upset as well. Who brings a pregnant dog to the airport, where the owner’s stepmother admitted that the stress probably caused her to go into labor early?

People stated that it couldn’t be sanitary for the humans or dogs involved to have the dog give birth on the floor with so many rubberneckers hovering around and watching.

Others pointed out that since Golden Nugget was the father, this lady was breeding them, and they questioned her motives. Whatever her intentions, the momma dog certainly had a lot of trained professionals around to help bring her pups into the world.

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And those will probably be the next generation of service dogs — it certainly didn’t seem like an accidental pairing.


Hopefully, since Ellie is a service dog in training, she was used to people and able to remain calm throughout the entire event.

Obviously boarding the plane was out of the question at that point, so her owner looked for a place to stay while they figured out how to drive back home.

Hopefully this new family makes it back home safe and sound and can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. Despite their chaotic entrance, they certainly brought joy to many people that day!

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