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Pleasanton's Shark Whisperer


Some people call John Valentine a shark whisperer, but "shark nanny" might be more accurate. Either way, his massive Pleasanton aquarium (originally built for a Las Vegas casino) holds two 30-inch sharks—for now.

A money manager for wealthy clients, Valentine began keeping reef fish in 1999 to unwind. In 2000, he adopted an 18-inch whitetip reef shark when a customer reneged on a deal with a Danville aquarium-store owner. The shark grew to four feet; Jigsaw now stars at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where Valentine, his wife Whitney, and their four children, Joshua, Zachary, Luke, and Alexis, still visit her.

The Valentines thought they were done with shark sitting until earlier this year, when a San Jose fish distributor called asking for help. A customer had backed out of buying two blacktip reef sharks, and the animals were ailing; would Valentine take them? He said yes and nursed them back to health. The sharks, named Yao and Ming by Valentine’s kids, are at the top of the food chain in their aquarium home.

"We loved Jigsaw," Valentine says, tossing a four-pound salmon steak into his eight-ton aquarium. "She was gentle to the other fish. But these two sharks—they’re just predators. We really need to find them a proper home."

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