I have always been drawn to the interaction between humans and animals. I spent years intrigued by interacting with several generations of raccoons when I lived atop a mountain in the woods. However, raccoons don't have the IQ or the natural interest in human beings as do dolphins. One of the things that I wanted to do the most on my trip to French Polynesia was to swim and interact with those oceanic mammals. Fortunately, I was able to realize my wish while on the small island of Moorea just off the coast of Tahiti. There was so much that I wanted to discover about dolphins. I wanted to see whether their skin felt like I thought it would. In addition, I also wanted to look into their eyes to see whether I detected any cross animal communication.

My debut with a dolphin took place in a large pool connected to a nearby lagoon.

My first contact with a dolphin was with one that had been trained to do several routines with those like me who were captivated by this sentient animal. One such routine was for the dolphin to kiss the human with whom it was swimming. My wife took this touching picture of my first and only kiss from a dolphin.

Prior to our trip, I had done quite a bit of research about dolphins. For example, there are many reports of how dolphins have rescued shipwrecked sailors by assisting them to shore. In addition, I learned that dolphins would develop sexual interests with their human handlers if they were isolated from large numbers of their own kind. This was one of my concerns when I puckered for the picture. I asked the trainer what was the sex of my kissing mate. The handler said that I was about to kiss a male dolphin. Being happily married, I didn't want to lead the dolphin on needlessly. Therefore, my embrace and kiss wasn't a long and elaborate one-just enough to get a couple of pictures.

The kiss was an uneventful public display of affection between two mammals. I think that he realized by my passing peck that there wasn't a future for us-and besides long-distance romances don't have a good track record. However, my brief debut with a dolphin confirmed what I thought that a dolphin's skin would feel like. It is a very smooth, wet, rubbery feeling.

While I was able to resolve some of my curiosity about dolphins, I have created many more unresolved questions about dolphin-human contact. While my dolphin didn't know that people like me pay to pet and interact with them, surely, they must know that we are excited to be with them. What effect does that have on their ego-to know that some other creature sees value in them and wants to communicate even if on a most primitive level?

I also wondered about what the dolphin took away with him from our contact. What did he feel about me and what did our time together mean? When he went back to the other dolphins after the crowds had gone for the day, what did he share with his buddies of his contact with me? I wonder whether he has gotten so used to interacting with humans. Was our encounter nothing more than a way of getting a couple of fish treats thrown to him by his handler after our visit together?

I would also like to know what data is stored in his brain about humans. Can he tell something of what I experienced while we were together? Does he sense more about me than I did about him? I wonder what impressions I left him with. Many people in the field of psychology, including Karl Jung, believe that we have a record of all humankind located deep in the recesses of our brains. This parallels what some marine biologists theorize about whales-that they also have stored in their brains the same kind of data about their specie's history. What if we could tap into our stored memories and also into the memories of other mammals like whales and dolphins? What revelations would flow from that latent history about our stay on planet Earth, and how would it change our lives?

Those questions will have to wait, but in the meantime, I will be content with my debut with a dolphin.

For additional pictures of my debut, go to this link: Moorea Dolphin.

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 3/29/04.