Skip to content
CLMP Publishers Sports, Outdoors & Nature - General

$17.95 Regular price
Unit price

Bewilderness: Reality Fiction Bred While Working in Animal Shelters

ISBN: 9781735461588
Binding: Paperback
Author: Kathleen Brown
Pages: 244
Trim: 5 x 8 inches
Published: 07/14/2021

We eat them. We also hunt them, ride them, stuff them, wear their fur, walk on their skin, live with them, train them and display them; we dominate them for our benefit, humanize and demonize them. And many of us, through all of this, say we love them.

When framed by love and awe, animals and humans can thrive in our unique entanglements. Our corporeal teachers, animal beings open our senses of sight, smell and touch, offering gifts of mutual recognition, regard and empathy. Making connections in jumps and starts, we humans are just beginning to consider the valuable perspectives, intelligence and agency of more-than-human beings.

From gangster to opera star, Vietnam veteran to Nob Hill lady, academic to meth addict, our lives intersect with animals' lives in cities, towns and rural areas. The encounters in this collage of tales highlight the vulnerability of being present with and for animals at intersections where there are few traffic signals.

Told with curiosity and a deep concern for reciprocity, Brown's unique stories reveal mysteries that are colorful and complex.


Writer & poet Kathleen Brown worked in San Francisco Bay Area animal shelters for more than thirty years. It is her life's work to bring the stories and essays based on her experiences and reflections on animal sheltering forward for public attention. In these times of continuing human incursions into the wild, the mass extinctions of species of animals and their habitat destruction, Kat finds this work of sharing her experiences with animals more important than ever before.

As to formal education, the author's undergraduate studies were at University of Illinois Chicago in political science and philosophy, graduate studies at Northwestern University, Loyola University and Art Institute of Chicago in philosophy and art history. Notably, she studied Criminal Justice and Animal Studies at Cabrillo College and Hartnell College in California.

As to work experience, the author has had extensive experience in the field of animal welfare. She began her career with fourteen years at Santa Cruz SPCA (1985-1999), followed by fourteen years as Deputy Director at San Francisco Animal Care & Control (1999-2013), and seven months as a Field Services consultant at Oakland Animal Services (2016-17). In addition, Kat worked as a sworn California State Humane Officer in 1987, was recognized as California State Humane Officer of the year in 1989, and she served as a Board Member on the California Animal Control Directors Board (CACDA) for 10 years 2003-2023 (three years of which she served as President 2019-2023).

Kat has also published articles on animal issues in Porter Gulch Review, Cats and Their Dykes, Shelter Magazine, HSUS All Animals, and Off Our Backs. Kat has also acted as American Humane Association consultant on a handful of movie sets.


"While her dedication to the more-than-human world is obvious, Kat Brown is also a word lover, and can't resist that playground with chapter headings like Introduction/Intro-Duck-shun or entitling a scholarly chapter about shelter history and their internal workings, 'Making Do with Doo-Doo.' And don't be surprised, in the midst of a nail-biting scenario, to find her suddenly pouncing on a word's etymology and layered meanings, relentless as a terrier digging out a gopher. Each story is quite unique and some will live in my psyche forever. In one, a woman brings a monarch butterfly with a torn wing to the Animal Shelter front desk and asks, 'What can you do for this butterfly?' The worker, a youngish man with advanced AIDS, tells her the vet is very busy but what if they work together at the desk with super glue and repair the wing? Eventually, in this tiny tale that feels like a parable, the monarch is able to fly off, the kind worker dies, and the woman becomes a dedicated volunteer. What would this world be like if we treated all beings with such earnest respect and care?" - Marilyn DuHamel

"Trifecta in a New Book from Kearns, Howard & Walker: ANIMAL / PEOPLE / GOVERNMENTIUM: THE FIRST JOLT From the top down, Bewilderness: Reality Fiction Bred While Working in Animal Shelters by Kathleen Brown, strikes out right away toward -- in its doubling of titles like Forward / Foreword and Preface / Pre-Face -- the duplicity, dichotomy, and split interpretative energies that are implicated in every one of her tales of interconnectivity between most animals and the animals known as humanoids or hominids, aka people. And from the start, the animals present in the text are personal: the Dogs: Dulcea, Gabriel, Lulu, Mini; the Cats: Fred & Ginger; the Bird: parakeet Maxi; and, perhaps the ultimate star of the book, the Chipmunk: unnamed, recurring avatar of animal reality, and who becomes a symbol burned into the author's skin. You could say this is a memoirist's book. You could say this is a woman's book. You could say this was a vegetarian's book. You could say this is an architect's book. But Bewilderness is ultimately a story book. And the beauty of it is that the stories are mostly in California, from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge to Surf City to Santa Cruz, with stops at a SHU at Pelican Bay and at San Francisco County Jail, along with research notes from UC Davis and the Morgellons Research Foundation, and further stops in the San Lorenzo Valley and the Oakland hills." - N. M. Hoffman

"As I read Bewilderness, I thought often of our human tendency to treat animals as Other, so different from us that they are assumed to be less than, not worthy of compassion or concern, often believed not even to have sensations or feelings--with the exception of those accepted into the home as pets and family members. Of course, this was not always the case for our human ancestors, and is still not the case for many indigenous communities, who understand the animals with whom we share the Earth to be vital, life-giving, sensitive and powerful companions and often our teachers. Most modern humans have not only forgotten this, but we have also become tragically expert at 'Othering' members of our own species. In Bewilderness I found myself witnessing society's Others, both human and animal, and I was moved and profoundly grateful. Nothing about the human relationship with animals is clear-cut or easy, and again I appreciated Brown's unwillingness to settle for simple answers to profound societal and political questions. What she offers is compassion and truth-telling. Bewilderness is an important offering that helps us to see with new eyes. A fascinating, funny and often astonishing book, readers with a long interest in animals as well as those who have rarely thought about them will come away a wiser and more enlightened citizen of our embattled and gorgeous Earth." - Carolyn Brigit Flynn

"Endorsement via Interview of author regarding Bewilderness on January 29, 2022, Lori Katz on Katz on Dogs: Insights for Both Ends of the Leash on Radio KSQD 90.7 FM, Santa Cruz, CA: the author discussed her 30-year career in animal shelter work and her book Bewilderness: Reality Fiction Bred While Working in Animal Shelters, published by Kearns, Howard & Walker. Kat was asked to host the program on March 6 with focus on viewing our companion animals as a link to thinking about larger issues, including our ambivalent relationship to livestock, wild animals, birds, insects, and food production noticing ties to climate change and environmental decline. The BIG question, of course, is how do we change our perspective if they are part of the problem? Guest on the program hosted by Kat was psychotherapist and author, Marilyn DuHamel, of Earth Dialogues blog, who helped sort this out." - Lori Katz

Kearns, Howard & Walker