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Oklahoma youth immortalizes 4-H calf with self-published book

Ashley Abbott for Progressive Dairyman Published on 24 May 2018
Riley DuBois with pet cow Puppy

In a tumultuous time for the dairy industry, strong dairy promoters are more important than ever. Dairy enthusiasts all over the U.S. have stepped up to the plate to fill this role, and a stand-out among them is the young and talented Riley DuBois.

DuBois has been an active 4-H member in her Oklahoma town for the past eight years and growing as a leader to her current role as club president. Her list of accolades continues to grow and, most recently, the teen has added “published author” to her resumé.



Unlike many of the great dairy promoters of her generation, DuBois did not grow up on a dairy farm. Her passion for dairy came about in a more unexpected way. Her first 4-H project calf, which she got at 10 years old, was a beef calf. She got her calf as a bottle baby and, while she loved raising her calf, she struggled with knowing what would happen to this beef calf after her project was over.

While DuBois’s passion for animals was vividly clear, beef production did not seem like a good fit for her. Her mother, having grown up on a dairy farm, suggested they get DuBois a dairy calf to show. This, they agreed, would allow her to raise the project animal without the fear of “market day” looming over her.

DuBois embraced the idea and got her first dairy calf, which she named “Puppy.” The plan for Puppy was to keep her until she had a calf and then send her to a local dairy to be milked. This was a much more palatable plan.

Puppy brought a lot of joy to DuBois’s life with her silly antics and funny personality, and she decided to start writing down the stories of things Puppy did. The stories were originally meant to be a memory of Puppy once she went to live on a dairy, where DuBois would see her less often. Little did DuBois know at the time the stories of Puppy would develop into something more.

As time passed, and Puppy grew from a calf to a cow, DuBois’s plans for her changed a little. This quirky cow, who is a dairy/beef crossbred, had her first calf around 2-and-a-half years old and didn’t make enough milk for her to earn her spot on a dairy. DuBois chose to keep Puppy at home and keep growing her small herd.


When the time came for DuBois to begin compiling her 4-H record book, she felt it was lacking something to really show who she was and how 4-H had helped her grow as a person. This is when DuBois remembered her tales of Puppy and decided not only to add some stories to her record book but take it a step further to publish her very first book.

Thus was born Once Upon a Barn: The AutobiMOOgraphy of Puppy Cow. This book is written from the perspective of Puppy, making it unique. DuBois says the book is written more for children, but she has found all ages seem to really enjoy it.

A book about Puppy the cow

Deciding to self-publish a book has proven to be a great accomplishment for DuBois. Not only does the story of Puppy help to build interest among the children who read it, it also gives back in a very tangible way. Her community service project for 4-H is supporting the Great American Milk Drive, which is a nationwide campaign to support giving milk donations to local food banks.

DuBois selflessly decided to donate 60 percent of the profits from her book sales to support the Great American Milk Drive.

DuBois’s efforts in dairy and agriculture promotion are being recognized and appreciated by her community as well. She has been invited to do story readings for her local elementary school and the public library in her town, both places where she also donated books.


DuBois hopes hearing and reading stories of Puppy will motivate younger kids to join 4-H and start their own animal projects. DuBois is a huge proponent of 4-H, stating none of this would have ever happened without her involvement in the program.

DuBois believes 4-H offers opportunities for every kid to improve their lives and learn not only about agriculture but how to become a successful person in whatever field they choose.

DuBois is finishing high school this year and undoubtedly has a very bright future ahead of her. When asked about her plans for writing more books, DuBois says she is undecided. She has mulled over the possibility of writing a book from the perspective of her dog, Willow, who she says loves to help in the kitchen, but nothing is for sure yet.

And what happened to Puppy? DuBois says her beloved cow is still around, and has been shown occasionally as a dry cow, but is really more of a pet these days, which she has certainly earned.  end mark

PHOTO 1: Riley DuBois still keeps Puppy around as a pet. 

PHOTO 2: A dairy-beef cross calf affectionately named “Puppy” was one of Riley DuBois’s first 4-H project animals and the inspiration for a children’s book. Photos provided by Riley DuBois.

Ashley Abbott is a freelance writer as well as an ag teacher and FFA adviser in Weyers Cave, Virginia.

DuBois’s book is available on Amazon for $8. Simply search the site for the author name or book title.