Lang’s first 19 years were spent as an instructor, refining his techniques under the mentorship of Daniel Boeke. “Daniel really took an interest in me and shared his passion about The Seeing Eye. We named our first son after him.”
When Morris Frank owned an insurance agency in Morristown, Lang always took his students to meet him and his dog Buddy. “Buddy had a four-poster bed behind Mr. Frank’s desk, and the students got a big kick out of that. Mr. Frank used to call me ‘Kid’ and I was sensitive about that. He probably called everyone ‘Kid,’ but I was so young that it used to really bother me.”
When the opportunity arose to become the supervisor of apprentice instructors, Lang at first felt hesitant. “This job really gets into your blood,” he said. “I wasn’t so sure I wanted to give up being an instructor. But I did sense that I could be of value, sharing what I’d learned with the new instructors.”
Although he sometimes felt “I almost had to tie my hands behind my back, not to do the job for them,” he spent the next 10 years coaching apprentices. In 1993, Lang was promoted to training manager, the position he’s held ever since. “I remember the first time I could look around the room during an instructors meeting and – after thinking, ‘Boy! Everyone looks younger than me!’ – I realized that I trained almost all of them in the room. Wow! That’s pretty neat!”
Over the years, Lang has come to know every student, every dog and all of the graduates currently working with dogs. Because The Seeing Eye provides ongoing services to graduates during the entire life of their dog/handler partnership, graduates are encouraged to call with any needs they might have, related to working with their dogs. As many as 4,000 calls each year come through the switchboard, more than half of which are passed along to Lang. Graduates call asking his advice on everything from health concerns to how to know when to retire a dog, and it’s been up to Lang to provide or search for a solution. “The worst calls are when a dog has died. Those are the tough ones,” he admitted.
Another of his roles is one akin to “chief inspector,” as he monitors the progress and expertise of each dog during mid-term and final exams. Lang follows behind a blindfolded instructor as he