"A true-life story about a unique and special friendship between a wild dolphin known as JoJo and his human companion Dean Bernal.
Dean Bernal swims as effortlessly as the dolphin he's shadowing. Wearing a scuba mask, a Speedo suit and slippers, Bernal is graceful and playful, floating in circles underwater and blowing bubble rings. The bubbles are Bernal's standard greeting for JoJo, a male bottlenose dolphin that he's maintained a relationship with for 15 years.
JoJo had been sighted previously by locals and tourists who pegged the dolphin as aggressive and hostile. Because JoJo was so close to shore and within human contact, many swimmers and snorkelers nearby assumed JoJo was approachable. Instead, he responded by biting hands, which prompted concern by local officials.
When it looked as if the dolphin was in danger of being destroyed or captured, Bernal, who was already accustomed to his swims with JoJo, began a letter-writing campaign to the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Turks and Caicos. In the letters, Dean said JoJo was merely reacting to humans who were petting him. He was, after all, a wild animal who was defending himself.
Bernal's efforts paid off, and Bernal became JoJo's official caretaker. Since his initial meeting with JoJo, Bernal has continued swimming with him. He receives no pay from any organization or government for his dolphin outreach. Bernal is also quick to point out that his relationship with JoJo didn't happen suddenly, either, and that all physical contacts were initiated by JoJo, not Bernal. As a good friend, Bernal has been there many times for JoJo, nursing him through 37 injuries--eight of which were life- threatening--caused by water skis and boat propellers.
JoJo bears many physical scars from the traffic of those water skis, boats and jets, which are provided by a nearby resort. By putting the resort operators in the spotlight, Bernal is helping a friend that has been there for him, too. About six years ago, Bernal was swimming toward his and JoJo's meeting spot at Sunshine Reef, about two miles from shore. Bernal had a documentary film crew trailing him. Suddenly, a hammerhead shark appeared, ready to attack Bernal. But JoJo, sensing the danger, rammed the shark nose-first, sending the would-be assailant to the ocean floor.
The attack, which is captured on film, is a testament to Bernal and JoJo's lasting friendship. It is also a rare example of a wild animal protecting a human, and gives even more substance to the theory that dolphins--called the smartest animal in the world--have real emotions.
"I owe my life to JoJo now," Bernal says.
And JoJo continues to enrich Bernal's aquatic life by introducing him to other sea creatures.
Bernal swims with JoJo almost every day for several hours at a time. When they meet, Bernal bats a wind-up toy fish that JoJo bounces back."