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Wiltonite Saves Goldfish from 'Feeding Frenzy'

Nancy Koegel could be called a "Fish Whisperer." Or goldfish rescuer. Either way, the 52-year-old Wilton animal and waterfowl lover wants to keep the tiny colorful fish that have served as pets for millions of American children from being devoured for dinner by larger tropical fish.

Now, when she goes to the pet store to shop for her own tropical fish and pet Doberman, Koegel often buys goldfish to "save their lives." She gives them away to Wilton residents and businesses, where they are becoming popular office pets. When they grow to maturity at about 6 months old and aren't as small, the fish are set free in an area pond.

"They are living creatures and have a right to have a better life than just being served for a bigger fish's dinner," Koegel said.

"It all started last year when I was in the pet store and noticed all these people buying bunches of beautiful goldfish and betas to feed to their tropical fish and turtles," said Koegel, who works at the Toy Chest in Wilton and for a veterinarian in Norwalk.

"It broke my heart to think of such wonderful little fish being served for another fish or turtle's dinner," Koegel said. "They can live up to 10 years, and people can use food pellets and frozen shrimp for their turtles and tropical fish instead."

That's why Koegel started buying goldfish in stores such as PETCO and PetSmart and leaving them in small bowls at local offices, such as Halstead Property, a real estate company at 21 River Road, next door to The Toy Chest.

"I came in one morning and there was this beautiful tiny blue fish swimming around in a fish bowl on my desk," said the firm's Assistant Manager Susan Byron. "I thought, that's strange. Who would leave a small fish swimming around on my desk?"

But it didn't take long for Byron and the other agents in the office to figure out it was left there by Koegel, who was gaining a reputation around town as a fish and animal lover. "Now, we have five in the office and everyone loves them. They're terrific office pets in every way – colorful, fun and relaxing to look at between and during phone calls," said Byron. "Our clients and their children love them, too. It's something to look at while waiting."

Bozena Jablonski, a Realtor at Halstead, can't wait to get to work each morning to be greeted by office favorite Million, a white beauty and the second half of a duo named Max and Million.

"He's so lively, and really excited to see me when I get in every day," said Jablonski, who fondly recalls her children's many goldfish. "He really has his own personality. He swims around that bowl like he's running a marathon. I love it when he jumps to the top and opens his mouth to eat. I think it's really sweet what she (Koegel) is doing. I couldn't stand to think of this little guy being eaten up."

Koegel doesn't know whether she has started a crusade. But she intends to keep on saving as many feeding fish as she can. She recently talked some customers at Norwalk's PetSmart out of buying goldfish, which she concedes are cheaper, for fish food. "Saving one fish at a time," Koegel said. "Who knows how many people will join in and help the cause."

Any fond -- or not so fond -- memories of your pet goldfish? How do you feel about Koegel's effort to rescue goldfish? Please leave a comment below.

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