Airports are relatively predictable. There's a lot of sitting around, waiting for flights and baggage. So passengers certainly noticed last week when a dog, which the owners identified as a service dog, decided to deliver her puppies in the middle of a terminal at Tampa International Airport.
A woman and her daughter were headed home to Philadelphia with their two dogs — Eleanor Rigby (aka Ellie) and Nugget — when Ellie decided it was time to have her puppies. According to airport personnel, Ellie's owners knew the 2-year-old yellow Labrador was pregnant but didn't know she was so close to giving birth.
As Ellie settled down to become a mother, curious passengers gathered around, watching and cheering as the puppies began to make an appearance.
Over the course of about three hours, seven male puppies and then one female were born.
"It was incredible how people all just came together. Such a beautiful moment," one passenger told Fox 13.
Two members of Tampa Fire Rescue were on hand to assist with the delivery. Paramedic Larry Glanton and Lieutenant Natalie Brown are stationed at the airport to assist with medical emergencies. Although they've helped with human deliveries in the past, this was their first canine birth, Tampa Fire Rescue spokesperson Jason Penny tells MNN.
"They were glad to be a part of it and that’s just what they do as paramedics," he says. "We’re a full-service dept. We’ve certainly been involved in some unique circumstances, but this is the first time we’ve ever delivered service dogs at the airport."
Stirring up controversy
The airport birth wasn't a feel-good story for everyone. Many people on social media questioned why the owners were flying with a pregnant dog and how they could be unaware that she was so close to delivery. Others questioned if she was truly a service dog, saying perhaps she was an emotional support animal instead. Service dogs, some suggested, wouldn't be pregnant in the first place.
Suzy Wilburn of Southeastern Guide Dogs told WFLA that she was angry when she heard the news.
"In the state of Florida it's a second-degree misdemeanor to represent your pet as a service dog," she said. "The fire department was called in. You took emergency services away for something they should've never had to deal with. And yes puppies are cute, but had something gone horribly wrong, those puppies' lives were in danger and so was mom's."
But fortunately mom and puppies are all healthy and seemed to handle the attention just fine.
Here's a video of the airport activity: