Plum Creek Paws: Richardton-Taylor junior launches successful 4-H dog club

Meet Neveah Baranko, a high school junior who has turned her lifelong passion for animals into the successful 4-H Dog Club.

Neveah Baranko with her 10 month old Belgian Tervuren named Buko.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — A junior at Richardton-Taylor High School, Neveah Baranko, has had a lifelong passion for animals that started in 4-H when she was six years old, showing chickens and rabbits. Her passion has now led her to start the Plum Creek Paws 4-H Dog Club, where she teaches students important skills in dog handling and training.

"It's not just feeding, watering and those basic needs of life; but also how to improve their life, how to show and handle them, and take care of them," Baranko said.

Her 10-month-old Belgian Tervuren, Buko, is at the center of her training program. Buko is similar to the Belgian Malinois, a breed commonly used by law enforcement, but with longer hair. Baranko spent a substantial amount of time researching the breed and learning about dogs in general before getting Buko.

"I spent four years just learning about his breed before I got him," she said. "And before that, I probably spent another four years researching just general breeds of what I was interested in… I watched a lot of dog stuff on TV, on the internet — constantly watching dog stuff."

Rocky Kensinger with his dog Crikey.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

So far, the club has seen good turnout, with around 20 students registered, and Baranko is happy to provide an opportunity for area children that wasn't previously available.


"It's just learning about how to handle your dog… how to keep up with the dog and keep their attention on you," Baranko said. "We're just starting things with the kids on how to train your dogs essentially."

The club came to fruition after Baranko reached out to the Bismarck Kennel Club to learn more about what they do. Dickinson State University Advisor Stefanie Aulner, a leading member of the Kennel Club, was eager to help and was impressed by Baranko's persistence and drive.

"She's a very impressive young lady, very persistent and reached out to our Kennel Club in Bismarck," Aulner said. "That's how I met her and she's done all the work on her own. She put this whole club together. She's done all the curriculum, the training and she's kind of developed it how she wants."

The club includes students like Lincoln Elementary fifth-grader Rocky Kensinger and his Aussie-doodle, Crikey, named in honor of Steve Irwin the crocodile hunter. Other participants include Dickinson High School senior Gus Zettel and his sister Rainey, a freshman, who brought their dog Lily.

"One thing I like to do a lot, especially if he's really nervous or isn't sure what to do is I just take a whole bunch of treats. I have like five or six treats, And I just hold them in front of his face. It might seem kind of gross but it keeps him busy, keeps him distracted," Baranko said as she demonstrated with Buko.

For those looking to bring a new pup into their life, Aulner says the puppy industry is largely unregulated, and advises careful research on providers. She suggests a website called that screens breeding practices.

Aulner herself is a proud owner of a Borzoi named Miranda, who she says is very active and was bred for hunting and tracking big game.

"If we go to the Badlands or something I'll have her out on a 20 or 30 foot line, and she will smell the area. She'll find the scent of a deer and once she's on it, she'll follow it. She'll spook them. And when they bolt she wants to go, so I'm sure to hang on or she'll take me with her,” Aulner described.


Stefanie Aulner with her Borozi Miranda.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

The Plum Creek Paws 4-H Dog Club provides an opportunity for children in the area to learn about handling their dogs and keeping them engaged. With about 20 students already registered for the club, Baranko is excited to continue growing the program and share her passion for animals with the next generation.

With its successful start and dedicated leader, the dog club is set to become a staple in the community for years to come. Children and dogs alike will have the opportunity to learn and grow under Baranko’s guidance, fostering a love and understanding of our furry friends that will last a lifetime. For more information about the club, contact Baranko at or 701-290-8715.

Nicole Cloutier with her daughters Maddy, left, Ellie and their poodle mix Milo.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press
A shepherd-corgi mix named Izzy.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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