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Small farm features 'fainting goats'

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

The giant canine ambled across the field to the small 19th Century barn as the rain began to fall.

"He doesn't like the rain, either," said Kim Lee, owner of the 200-pound Great Pyrenees.

The 10-year-old dog, affectionately named General Beaureguard Lee, is the guardian of Lee's roughly two dozen myotonic goats.

The dog followed behind the goats into a small barn located on the Lee family's Locust Grove property.

"They're thinking dogs, known as gentle giants," Kim Lee said, referring to the Great Pyrenees. "A lot of people equate them to Saint Bernards. They're extremely intelligent."

Lee said she feels confident knowing the gentle giant is guarding the rare herd of goats at the family farm, called The Lee Dream Farm.

The goats are somewhat unusual, because of a particular, and discernible, trait with which they are born, said Lee. Myotonic goats suffer from a neuromuscular disorder which causes them to stiffen, and sometimes, fall over when startled.

"The breeds are known as myotonic fainting goats," she said. "History has it that they originated in Nova Scotia, and came to us [Tennessee] during the Civil War."

Lee, her husband, Kinney, and three children, moved to Locust Grove from Marietta, 10 years ago. They keep the goats on their three-acre property near downtown Locust Grove.

"It's not a business, it's a hobby," Lee said. "It's a passion I have."

Kim Lee said she first became interested in goats out of necessity. Her eldest son, Austin Lee, 16, had trouble digesting baby formula as a newborn. She researched her son's lactose sensitivity to baby formulas and found that milk from Saanen goats had reportedly helped other newborns with similar intolerance to formulas.

"I started feeding him Saanen goats milk, and within one week, the symptoms disappeared," she said. She fed her younger daughters, Sarah Lee, 14, and Rebekah Lee, 11, the milk as well.

Kim Lee has provided tours for small school groups in the past, and has allowed some small service groups on the property to help with upkeep. The family's chickens, roosters, cats and dogs complement the dwarfed farm scene.

"I feel like I'm special, because I have a farm," added Rebekah Lee. "Growing up with animals, I [have grown] to really, really love them. My friends think the goats are cool. They're really nice to play with."

Rebekah Lee, who wants to be an animal rescuer when she grows up, said she has gained a heightened awareness having grown up around farm animals.

"She knows what it takes to be responsible for them," interjected her mother, Kim.

Kim Lee said she kept baby ducks, chicks, and rabbits at her home. She said she has also led her children's classmates on tours of the property.

"The kids get a kick out of it," she said. "This being so close to suburban surroundings gives the kids an opportunity to actually come and put their hands on a farm animal. Most kids, these days, have never touched what would be considered a farm animal. It's a touch of farm life in the city."