Riley DuBois’ venture into dairy cattle helped her create a career path and a book
As a young girl, Riley DuBois joined 4-H as soon as possible. First as a Cloverbud, then later as a regular member.
At the age of 10, Riley decided to show dairy cattle. With the help of her parents, Puppy Cow – as she was affectionately known – came into her life.
Through the years Puppy Cow was joined by others as part of Riley’s show string.
The calf, now a “retired cow,” and all of the 4-H experiences, not only gave Riley a solid high school education – it’s also helped direct her collegiate studies and potential career path.
Riley, now a rising junior at Oklahoma State University, plans to pursue a career in family and consumer sciences with the ultimate goal of becoming either a FCS educator in an Oklahoma Extension Office or an FCS teacher in a high school.
Back to how it began, as a first project heifer, Puppy Cow was initially destined for the sale barn. Her name indicating the English Bulldog Riley planned to purchase with the proceeds of the eventual sale.
Riley began jotting down stories about Puppy Cow, as a way to remember her first 4-H animal.
“We didn’t think we were going to keep her, and we wanted to remember all of the fun stuff [she did],” Riley said.
Eventually, though, Puppy Cow wormed her way into becoming a permanent fixture on the family farm as other calves like Laptop, Kindle, iPad, Television (Telly for short), and Hershey (as in a trip to the chocolate factory in Pennsylvania) – all named for things Riley dreamed of buying upon their eventual sale.
She got the idea from Grove educator Vira Yirsa, who raised bottle calves, naming them for things she planned to purchase after their sale.
The thought, Riley explained, was if she named the calf for something she wanted, she would not get as attached to it.
“The system doesn’t work,” Riley said, “but it was an easy way to come up with names. When I got a new calf, I thought, what do I want. It narrowed down the name pool.”
Puppy Cow is now 11, marking her latest birthday on the family’s farm in rural Delaware County, Okla.
Writing a book
In 2017, as Riley began preparing for that year’s Oklahoma State 4-H Record Book competition, she decided to take her 10-year-old musings about Puppy Cow and put them into a book.
That book, Once Upon a Barn: The AutobiMOOgraphy of Puppy Cow, includes 21 stories from Puppy Cow’s life.
The book, published on Amazon’s CreateSpace, is geared towards young readers and tells the story — in Puppy Cow’s voice — of what happened after she arrived on the farm at 3-days-old and continues until she began to have her first calves.
Riley said it was compiled as a way to not only supplement her record book, but also give voice to the importance of 4-H and how it impacted her life as she took part in the dairy project.
Looking to the future
Initially, Riley planned to pursue a career in interior design – that is, until she took her first classes at OSU.
“I hated every minute,” Riley said with a laugh. Unsure of her next step, Riley went to the career services office and took an aptitude test.
“I was reading them off to Mom, and she said ‘well all of those things sound like Extension,’” Riley said, agreeing.
It turned out, the program so instrumental in her formative years, would become her new career path.
Her future plan, she said, all came because her parents helped her become a 4-H Cloverbud so many years ago. She is still a 4-H member, now as part of the Collegiate 4-H program at OSU.
“I just really love 4-H and just want to be able to share that with the incoming kids,” Riley said. “There’s a misconception that 4-H is purely an ag-based program. Well yes, there is an ag element, but there’s so much more you can do.”
Learning from 4-H
Riley said working with dairy cattle as a 4-H project taught her a lot about working with people, saying the Holsteins and Jersey calves had diverse personalities.
“It gave me a baseline idea of people and the different personality types,” Riley said. “4-H in general, also taught me various life skills, gave me confidence and helped me get out of my comfort zone.”
During high school, thanks to a Cherokee Nation internship program, Riley spent three summers working at the Delaware County Extension Office.
Last summer, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she interned at the Hughes/Seminole County Oklahoma Extension Office.
With everything moving virtual, Riley found herself leading workshops online. She created one known as “Eat The Rainbow” which provided a food demonstration and basic nutrition knowledge. The zoom workshop was eventually edited down, and became a recorded offering on Facebook.
This summer, Riley is working at the Science Museum Oklahoma, while also maintaining her on-campus job running the social media for the OSU FCS Extension office.
She’s on track to graduate in May 2022. Her ultimate goal – help people become aware of the myriad of resources available through a county extension office.
“I want to see extension become more relevant to the general community,” Riley said. “It provides science-based resources, accessible for the general community.”