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She was born in Austin, Texas, but, because her father was an Air Force Officer, her childhood was spent in a number of Air Force Bases. The last, where her father retired, was in Riverside, California, where she attended the University of California. There Victoria Elizabeth Hearne received her B.A. in English. She subsequently spent more than twenty-five years studying animal behavior as a horse and dog trainer. Central to Hearne's view on animal training was her belief that animals should not be defined by behaviorists' dictates, that in their individuality they have the capacity to be in reciprocal relationships with humans both emotionally and morally. In addition to her poetry, she authored several books on animals and animal-training theory, including Adam's Task, Bandit, and Animal Happiness. She received a 1992 award for outstanding literary achievement from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In the mid-1980s she was offered an appointment at Yale, inducing a move from California to Connecticut. Eventually, she settled in Westbrook, Connecticut. While in Connecticut, she appeared in the Oscar-nominated short documentary, A Little Vicious.
She died at the age of 55 of lung cancer at the Connecticut Hospice in Branford, attended by her daughter Colleen Lehrman from a previous marriage and her brother, James Hearne. She was in addition survived by her husband, Robert Tragesser, her father, William Victor Hearne and her mother, Elizabeth Saunders Hearne.