The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales

How well do we adjust once outside our comfort zones? What if we are thrown into a crisis? How would we manage a survival situation? Laurence Gonzales addresses these and related questions in Deep Survival, a fascinating investigation of the way people behave when they find themselves in the midst of a disastrous situation.

Gonzales is an easy author to follow — there is a light charm about him that, when blended with his obvious intelligence, encourages the reader to accept what he says. He has wisely chosen to rely primarily on success stories, though he does give tales of failure as a contrast. For example, when writing about people lost at sea in lifeboats, he compares the actions of those who give up and die with the behavior of those who defy the odds and survive. Other examples include that of a teenaged girl who walked away from a plane crash alone and with a broken collarbone through the Peruvian jungle to a village where she found help, his WWII aviator father, and mountain climber Joe Simpson.

So what does Gonzales conclude? There’s way too much for this review, but one thing that struck me is that all survivors at some point must accept that they are in an entirely different reality, with different rules. If you stick to a plan that no longer applies, which Gonzales says is neurologically the rough equivalent of a memory that hasn’t happened yet, your mind will not make the necessary adjustments to deal with the situation you are actually in. So in a raft floating in the ocean, you catch fish. Lost in the jungle, you walk along the freshwater stream. Stranded in a crevasse, you explore to see what else is there. You were sailing, flying, or climbing, but now you fish, walk, or explore. You do what is there to be done in your new reality.

I highly recommend this book.

As for animal lovers, there wasn’t anything off-putting about this book. In fact, animals were often part of the hazard: sharks at sea, parasites in the jungle, bears in the woods. Birds can be heroes for the lost, because they get excited or flee whenever something is up. Steven Callahan made “pets” of schools of fish and birds that he came to see as companions, occasionally spearing a fish in order to survive. Deborah Kiley listened to the screams after her less determined raft-mates dove over the side and immediately became shark food. A Holocaust survivor even kept a pet snail. These stories all meet my criteria for declaring this book SAFE for animal lovers. Enjoy, and think flexibly!


February 14, 2010 - Posted by | Book Reviews, nonfiction | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Rest in peace Debbie Kiley. We will miss you terribly.

    Comment by Lisa Sandefer | August 15, 2012 | Reply

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