Keaton Shirk




Contemplation leaves my mind a little confused given too much time. I felt I had so many topics to write about that choosing just one felt impossible. OK, maybe not impossible, but certainly difficult.

Actually, I didn’t even come up with the idea to write about Best Friends Animal Society. Any guess as to who did? Well, just like a lot of other decisions in my life, my parents suggested the topic.

Every initial idea I had seemed great, but I couldn’t find enough information to highlight that would make a story interesting. It was one of those necessary breakups with my ideas that ended in a, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Luckily there weren’t too many hearts broken.

It wasn’t the people or businesses involved in my potential stories, but it was me. I couldn’t seem to create ideas that deserved at least 850 words. My professor, Kimberley Mangun, told the class our first ideas were probably not going to be what we ended up writing about. I didn’t think much of this. I thought my ideas were great.

What I thought then is different than what I think now. I feel more humble about my approach to writing, like story ideas that present themselves in subtle ways are the ones that are worth further exploration.

After the mention of Best Friends from my mother, my first thought was, “Wow! I can go on a trip to Kanab and spend all day with dogs!” That didn’t seem like a bad idea at all.

I admit the idea of visiting 1,700 animals was persuasive, but all throughout my life I have volunteered with animal organizations and grown up in a family that raised what we called “muts” from the pound; otherwise known as rescue dogs from animal shelters. The topic was one I related to and felt compassion for.

To clarify, I wasn’t the “mut” nor was I from the pound, but ask a family member and they might say vice versa.

I began my story as any millennial might do. I went straight to social media. I made a post on Facebook in the Best Friends volunteer Facebook group.

My post gained a lot of interest. Employees and volunteers reached out to offer any help they could with my story.

I was shocked. I was pleased. And I was ready to start writing.

I direct messaged the individuals on Facebook who I was interested in interviewing. We exchanged our schedules and then coordinated a time to meet while I was volunteering at the Best Friend’s sanctuary.

I was inspired by everyone I talked to. I learned a lot of interesting facts as well. One woman I met began volunteering at Best Friends after she watched a TV show called “Dogtown,” which was filmed at the sanctuary in Kanab. She’s also from Wisconsin and has been volunteering for eight years now. She flies to Kanab three times a year.

I managed to interview her on one out of three times she will be in Kanab this year. You could say it wasn’t mere luck, but destiny. 

I knew No-Kill Utah was a significant movement, but I was unaware of the resources available for community members to become involved.

NKUT was my focus for a couple reasons. One being that Best Friends hopes to reach no-kill status by 2019, so proximity of time worked out great for me. Another reason being the work of Best Friends, made possible by employees and volunteers, in my opinion deserved recognition.

During my researching process, I was completely overwhelmed by the information available to me. I couldn’t find a starting point. There was so much to be written about and after my first rough draft I felt I had brain dumped a lot of information into a Word document that wasn’t cohesive.

It look a lot of editing before I was pleased with my work. Most importantly, I wanted Best Friends to be pleased by my work.

I had a rewarding experience writing about Best Friends. Writing profiles as I did showed me that journalism can be symbiotic for both the writer and the subject.

It’s personal experiences like this that make all efforts seem beneficial to my success as a professional and individual.


Keaton Shirk grew up in Dallas, Texas, until moving away to attend Santa Barbara Community College in Santa Barbara, California, after she graduated high school. While taking in the sunshine and sea breeze, she took courses to complete her associate degree and decide what career she found herself most passionate about.

In her free time, she volunteered at the Santa Barbara Food Bank, where she gleaned fruits from community members’ trees. The gleaned fruit was then distributed to fellow community members who relied on the support of the food bank. It was an uplifting experience for her. Many of the people she volunteered with are still great friends to her now.

After completing her general academic requirements in Santa Barbara, Keaton transferred to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Before officially transferring, she did not go to school for one semester. She did this so she could spend time exploring Utah.

Everywhere Keaton travels she seeks out businesses and nonprofit organizations that are helping local communities. She enjoys supporting those that strive to support others on a daily basis. This passion led her to eventually becoming a board member for the Sugar House Farmer’s Market. She assisted with social media and website management.

Once university classes started, Keaton began exploring the resources offered at the U. She found the opportunity to take an internship position in Barcelona, Spain. The internship taught Keaton valuable skills that are only acquired in real-life experience. Keaton wrote for the company’s blog and enjoyed building a portfolio with creative content inspired by her life in Spain. Due to the exposure Keaton received working at a touristic company, she found an interest in the travel industry.

Since Keaton has returned to Utah, she values the knowledge she gained from her internship and is therefore exploring other internship opportunities in Utah and abroad. Currently, Keaton is majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in parks, recreation and tourism with an emphasis in sustainable tourism. Keaton hopes to graduate the U by 2020 and find a career that combines her appreciation for communication and tourism.