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Her Fish Wasn’t Allowed to Fly. An Airline Worker Looked After It.

At the end of her freshman year at the University of Tampa, Kira Rumfola packed her bags and headed to the airport with her favorite roommate: a colorful betta fish named Theo. Kira, 19, was headed home to Long Island for the summer and was happy to be bringing home the little fish that she had bonded with. She figured there would be no problem taking Theo onboard the plane in a small portable fish carrier. She said, “I’d done it before over the holidays with another airline, so I filled the container with water and put Theo in it.”

But there was a problem. While she was checking in, a customer service agent Ismael Lazo noticed the fish and explained to Kira that the airline’s pet policy allowed only small dogs and cats onboard in carriers. No other pets are permitted on planes.

Kira said, “All of my roommates had already gone home for the summer and I had nobody to leave Theo with. “I was really sad and wondered what I was going to do. He’s my pet.”

Lazo said he understood Rumfola’s concern for Theo. “I have two dogs—I wouldn’t want to abandon them somewhere. How about if I take your fish home to live with me and my fiancée until you come back for college in the fall? You can text me over the summer to see how he’s doing whenever you like.”

Kira’s face lit up, Lazo said. Right away, he felt good about his unusual offer. Kira promised she would check in often over the summer to see how Theo was faring in his temporary home.

As soon as she arrived home in New York, she texted Lazo: “Hi Ismael, it’s the girl from the airport with the fish! I was just wondering how he is doing.” Lazo quickly responded: “Hey! We are heading to the store to buy him a bigger tank.”

Lazo said that he didn’t feel sad when Kira returned to classes in late August and it was time to reunite her with Theo. “To be honest, I was worried about something happening to him on our watch. So, I was happy for Kira to have him back.”

When Rumfola went to Lazo’s apartment to pick up the fish, she gave him and his fiancée a store gift card and some candy as a gesture of thanks.

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