Whenever a labrador walks into an airport you know it’s going to be a good story. In the case of Eleanor “Ellie” Rigby, the pregnant yellow lab, her airport outing ended gloriously, with a newborn litter of adorable puppies that social media will always remember as the #AirportPuppies.
Two-year-old Ellie, her two owners, and her “partner” Nugget, also a yellow lab, all checked into Tampa International Airport on May 25 to catch a flight to Philadelphia. And then, something amazing happened.
Ellie, who is a service dog, just like Nugget, ended up not boarding the plane to Philly but giving birth to eight puppies instead.
According to Fox News, Ellie’s two owners, a mother and her stepdaughter, were very much aware that the Labrador was pregnant but had no idea how close she was to giving birth.
Not knowing how far along Ellie was, the two women — Diane Van Atter and her stepmother Karen James of Bradenton, states CBS Pittsburg — were confounded when the yellow lab unexpectedly went into labor in the middle of the terminal in front of Gate F80.
The Tampa Fire Rescue’s medical team immediately arrived at the departure gate and stepped in as vets, helping Ellie deliver her puppies right in the middle of the concourse.
Tampa Fire Rescue chronicled the event on social media under the hashtag #AirportPuppies, posting photos as the birth progressed and more puppies appeared on the airport terminal.
“An air traveler’s service dog is delivering puppies now at Tampa International Airport. We’re a full-service department!” the medical team wrote on Twitter.
The first six puppies to emerge were all males, announced Tampa Fire Rescue on Twitter, anticipating whether the next pup would be a girl.
“It’s a girl!” Tampa Fire Rescue announced on Twitter shortly thereafter.
The next to follow was another male pup, bringing the total to seven boys and one girl.
“Ruff day for this mama at Gate F80!” Tampa airport officials posted on Twitter and Facebook.
Ellie, who is named Eleanor Rigby after the famous Beatles song, was calmly watched throughout her labor by “proud papa Nugget,” notes Fox 35.
“All done!” the Tampa Fire Rescue tweeted after the last puppy arrived.
The happy but unexpected birth of the eight puppies caused the two women to miss their flight. Since airline regulations state that puppies under the age of 8 weeks old can’t travel by airplane, the two women decided that their best option is to pack their 10 dogs in a car and drive the roughly 1,000 miles to Philadelphia, the Miami Herald reports.