Lacey Rae Gray may not have known quite what to expect when she made the decision to adopt an orphaned calf, but she probably didn’t realize she was providing a new sibling for her almost-2-year-old daughter Kinley.
“It’s kind of like having a sister,” Gray told The Huffington Post. “If I were to have a baby, that’s what that would be like.”
Gray is a 25-year-old photographer in Michigan City, Mississippi, and the whole thing started when friends wouldn’t stop tagging her on Facebook in another photographer’s photo shoot with a baby and calf and suggesting she try something similar. Finally, Gray called up her husband’s uncle, who keeps cows, to ask if she could borrow a calf for a day to take some pictures.
“He started laughing at me, and said, ‘No, you can’t take a calf away from her mama, because the mama is gonna be one mad cow,” she said.
But the very next day, she received another call, this time a tragic one. The calf’s mother had suffered a fall and wasn’t going to make it. Did she want the calf, who would require bottle-feeding?
“I immediately said yes. I was at the bank and I was like, ‘I’ll leave right now and come get her. I’ll take good care of her.’ Not even having pictures in mind, I just thought ‘I’m gonna rescue a calf and I’m gonna be her mom. I’ll do it,” Gray recalls.
But it was her daughter Kinley who ended up connecting the most deeply with the calf, whom the family named Molly Moo Moo, when she came to live with them that evening.
Gray and her husband told Kinley about an hour before Molly’s arrival that they were going to get a “real moo-cow.”
“She didn’t really get it until Molly actually showed up, and then she was like ‘Oh, oh, that’s my moo-cow,” says Gray. ”She was very hands on. She wanted to walk her, she wanted to feed her, she read a book to her the first night. It was a Dory and Nemo book that makes noises and so she was pushing the buttons and playing the noises and telling Molly, ‘Listen, it’s Dory.’ She did that all on her own. I thought, they’re gonna be best friends, and sure enough they are.”
Now, Kinley cries when she has to leave Molly at home and joins her parents for every feeding. The two walk up to each other without hesitation, and Kinley sits next to Molly and talks to her, rubs her feet and kisses her ears and nose.
But it wasn’t until Gray got out her camera that she saw the true strength of the connection.
“The moment I really noticed the connection between the two, we were doing a trial photo shoot. It was muddy and Molly wouldn’t sit down, so we put Kinley next to her and she just plopped down and started licking all over Kinley. I couldn’t stop taking pictures because of that connection, that friendship. You could just see that Molly trusted her.”
“I couldn’t even really explain it, “says Gray. “The pictures explain themselves.”
Gray estimates that Molly will live with the family for about a year while they prepare her to return to the pasture she came from. The calf had to be taught to suck and swallow and other basics, and will still need to learn to eat on her own before returning to live with other cows.
Luckily, the farm is just a few minutes down the road, so the family is already planning to visit and come over for nighttime feedings. With Kinley and Molly’s sweet relationship, it’s obvious the cow is going to be part of the family for life.