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Mom service dog has puppies in Tampa airport, while dad service dog looks on

Diane Van Atter sits with her service dog Eleanor Rigby and her litter of newborn puppies at Tampa International Airport. [Courtesy of Tampa International Airport]
Published May 25, 2018

TAMPA — Travelers killing time at Tampa International Airport's Gasparilla Bar got an unexpected show Friday when a dog gave birth to eight puppies near Gate F81.

The 2-year-old golden retriever, Eleanor Rigby, owner Diane Van Atter, and the puppies' father, Golden Nugget, were waiting to board an afternoon flight home to Philadelphia when the dog went into labor.

They missed the flight, and for the next three hours created a fuzzy spectacle as crowds gathered with phones trying to capture the scene.

The puppies were delivered with assistance from Tampa Fire Rescue paramedics stationed at the airport, as well as a nurse who had to leave halfway though the delivery to catch her own flight.

Other passengers came and went, casually sipping their coffees and charging their phones as they watched puppy after puppy delivered on the carpet, airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps said.

"I've never seen anything like this in an airport, or otherwise," she said.

Van Atter said she has mobility and pain issues, Nipps said, and the dogs were service dogs, though Eleanor Rigby was still in training.

Van Atter's stepmother, Karen James, of Bradenton, was also set to fly to Philadelphia. She said they knew Eleanor Rigby was pregnant, but believed the excitement of being in the airport around so many new people may have triggered the early birth.

James was talking to the Tampa Bay Times by phone from the airport when people started cheering in the background.

"Another one just came out!," she said.

She was holding Golden Nugget on a leash.

"I have to go, the father is getting excited," she said. "Every time she's ready to deliver another one he starts jumping around."

James said the plan was to find a dolly somewhere in the airport to carry the pups and mother out. Then they'd go back to Bradenton where everyone would get some rest before figuring out how to drive to Philadelphia with a new litter.

No planes were delayed and all the puppies were successfully delivered. Seven males, and one female.

MORE PUPPIES: Rare red wolf puppies born at ZooTampa

PREVIOUSLY: Scenes from the Tampa International Airport

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