Lange success marked by love

Lange Animal Hospital to celebrate 40 years of caring for animals and their humans in Farragut, West Knox

A lifetime of love and commitment has led Lange Animal Hospital to a successful 40-year business in West Knox County, while also serving Farragut.

The practice, begun by twin brothers Rick and Randy Lange, first opened Dec. 26, 1977. Rick has since passed away, and the business relocated from a site that was condemned to make way for Pellissippi Parkway.

But the heart of the business has remained.

Randy Lange said the key to its longevity is simple: relationships.

“The customer service side is the most important thing — making sure your customers know how much you care,” he said.

He sets aside time daily to check on his patients, and their owners, even going so far as to follow up after helping pet owners who have to have their pets put to sleep.

“It is one of the worst things in the world that we put an animal to sleep, but it is also one of the best things in the world that we can put an animal to sleep because we can prevent [their] suffering,” Lange said.

It is that compassion that contributed to the client base Lange Animal Hospital enjoys today.

Early on the twins, who grew up on an Iowa farm, had a passion for animals, and knew they would pursue veterinary services and practice together.

They worked with, and on, farm animals — most notably Brownie, a pig who, just like in the movie Babe, thought she was a dog.

Randy explained a pack of feral dogs killed a bunch of piglets on the farm, and severely damaged Brownie. The boys begged their father to let them try to save her, and they nursed the pig through the night, along with assistance from the family’s own trio of dogs.

“She not only survived, but grew up with the dogs, and she really thought she was a dog. She [ended up weighing] 500 to 600 pounds, and she was amazing,” Lange said.

After attending vet school in Iowa, the brothers practiced separately — but yearned to work together.

At that time, a new vet school was being built at the University of Tennessee.

“We realized it would be a great place for referral capabilities, but we also fell in love with the area,” Lange said.

They had no money, but borrowed $10,000 and put it in a bank account. It counted as equity and they were able to open for business.

Their first location was successful, but progress intervened in the form of Pellissippi Parkway, and their building was condemned in 1993.

What many would see as a problem, the brothers saw as an opportunity.

“It was the best thing that could have happened to us,” Lange said.

They were able to expand, from 4,000 to 7,000 square feet, and also were able to upgrade their equipment. “We were so thankful, really, that the state condemned us,” eh said.

They steadily continued building their practice when tragedy struck. Rick was killed in a car accident on Chapman Highway in November 1999.

Randy Lange credited a close-knit staff with helping him navigate the aftermath of losing not only a brother, but a partner, too.

“When you have a partner, you share the good and the bad. I miss not having him next to me. We both had desks in the same office, and I still come in and wish he was sitting there,” Lange said.

He said not a day goes by that he does not miss Rick.

“There was so much comfort in having your best buddy working with you,” he said. “We went to vet school together and practiced together. You couldn’t tell us apart — we used to play tricks on our clients, we were that much alike.”

Randy Lange has soldiered on the last 18 years. While continuing to grow the practice,

he has branched out into writing children’s books, all of which promote the animal-human bond.

And he used his own Golden Retriever, Josh, to tell the stories.

He had the idea when his daughter, Jessica, went to the hospital as a 9-year-old. “I always liked to write, but it really was a God thing, to be able to see the need to write a book to help children going to the hospital,” Lange sid.

It took him two years, but when it was finished, “I’ll Be OK” was published, and is designed to help children navigate their hospital experiences.

That was 21 years ago.

Since then, he wrote “G.I Josh” for children of deployed soldiers at the request of the American Legion, and he has completed two more books, one of which, “Elk Horn Grove Adventure,” will be published this year.

He and the original Josh, who passed away in 2010, traveled

all over the country to promote the book, which he said has helped “tens of thousands of children” who have had to be hospitalized.

“We need to figure out how we can help other people, and the human-animal bond is the best way to do that,” he said.

Lange now has Josh Jr. “J.J.” age 9, and is training Josh 3.0, who is 4 — both now serving as part of Lange’s non-profit organization Josh and Friends.

He and his wife, Christy, live in Farragut. Jessica, a Farragut High School graduate, now is 32, and just completed a six-year urology residency.

Lange said veterinary services have come a long way since the practice began. “Anything that can be done for a person, we can pretty much do for animals [now]— Echo cardiogram, ultrasounds, cold laser surgery,” he said.

He said another change has been the proliferation of veterinarians. “When we moved here, there were 17 or 18 vets in the metro area; now, there are well over 100, and many of them are female,” Lange said.

He said an official 40-year celebration will take place in spring.