The story of JoJo and Toffee
A friendship that will inspire us always
The Meridian Club on Pine Cay offers a unique combination of unearthly solitude and unpressured opportunities to connect with other club guests. Cocktail hour in the upstairs lounge tends to be special time to share island-exploring stories, browse through stacks of photo albums and bring some animated closure to a day of quiet reflection, and unhurried exploration. Guests flock to each other striking up lively conversations while indulging in chilled cocktails and mouth watering appetizers. Brimming with stories to share, an unexpected and enduring camaraderie is forged amongst strangers who hail from all corners of the world and whose shared experiences have intertwined and forever connected one to the other as a result of their time on this tiny Caribbean island.
Much like the human connections which have formed on Pine Cay, this perfectly-isolated haven in the Turks and Caicos was the setting for one of the best documented and truly incredible friendships.
It all started when a former Meridian Club manager, Francois de Vouvay, adopted a young Labrador/Potcake pup named Toughie in the early 80’s. This gregarious dog, renamed Toffee due to his dark golden color or perhaps Francois’ French accent, took easily to life on Pine Cay, taking long swims and frolicking on the shore. His antics soon caught the attention of a marine passerby.
JoJo, a young, Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) took interest in the canine and began swimming fairly close to the shore at Pine Cay to attract Toffee’s attention. Dolphins, by nature, are very social and choose to travel in pods; however, JoJo was a rare solitary dolphin who still craved interaction. When JoJo made an appearance, Toffee would excitedly swim out to meet the dolphin and the two would spend hours playing in the shallow water. The animated and friendly interaction stirred many guests at The Meridian Club to venture into the turquoise waters to join the pair for a once-in-a-lifetime swim.
When Francois left the island, Kevin, the new manager adopted Toffee, and shortly after Kevin left the island Toffee was adopted by Tim Ainley and Cookie Kellar who moved him to Turtle Cove on Providenciales .
JoJo, missing his playmate, was quick to scout Toffee out, and took to following Tim’s boat when Toffee was on board. Toffee, delighted to be discovered, would jump overboard and the two would re-enact the exuberant play of their days on Pine Cay.
Over the years JoJo’s celebrity rose as local naturalist Dean Bernal’s long time friendship with the dolphin became the stuff of documentaries. In 1989, JoJo was declared a National Treasure of the Turks & Caicos Islands. That same year Dean was appointed as JoJo’s official warden having intercepted several near fatalities involving naturally-curious JoJo swimming too close to motorized equipment.
In 1995, Robin Williams talked about JoJo in the movie Dolphins: In The Wild and in 2000, Pierce Brosnan narrated an IMAX movie titled Dolphins – footage of JoJo’s playfulness captivated the world. Canine and cetacean remained friends throughout JoJo’s meteoric rise to stardom!
The story of friendship between JoJo and Toffee will live for years through those who were fortunate enough to witness the spectacle of dog and dolphin. In 1996 at 15 years of age, Toffee was laid to rest. He was taken back to his beautiful beach on Pine Cay to be buried in view of the Caribbean waters that were his first playground. A year following Toffee’s demise, a feature film titled Zeus and Roxanne starring Steve Guttenberg was released. It told an eerily similar story of a dolphin, Roxanne, befriending a dog, Zeus. Whether Toffee’s story inspired the screenplay, we will never know.
In recent years, JoJo has been spotted with his mate and son, JoJo Jr. or affectionately known as MoJo. JoJo continues to visit Pine Cay and was back – alone – playing off shore just a couple of weeks ago.
If you should be enjoying a quiet walk along the breathtaking beach on Pine Cay and happen to catch a view of JoJo, please be sure to share your story at cocktail hour when you get together with your new friends…and, if you think of it, raise your glass and drink to old friends.
A facebook page called Dean Bernal & JoJo the Dolphin has been established for those who are interested in following JoJo’s story.