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Meet Dr. Suzanne Hetts

Pets have been part of my life from the time I was five years old. My first dog, a miniature dachshund we named Kris Kringle, was a Christmas present from my parents. He was my childhood friend until he died at age 15 when I was an undergraduate in college. I had two other miniature dachshunds later in life, Nacho, a wirehaired, and Cisco, another shorthaired.

My love of animals prompted me to consider veterinary medicine as a career, but college counselors discouraged me from pursuing this path, which at the time was an extremely male dominated field. And I was silly enough to listen! But all things considered, things worked out fine anyway!

Instead, I earned my undergraduate degree in medical technology and microbiology and went to work in human medicine as a medical technologist in a large hospital in Denver. After just a few years, I realized this field was not my passion.

My concern for both animals and the environment led me to enter a master’s program in wildlife biology at Colorado State University (CSU). After completing my degree, I was drawn back to medicine and animals, and took a position as a medical technologist at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) at CSU.

It was there that I was first exposed to a class in animal behavior and decided this was the field I’d been waiting for. After a few detours, including one to co-found the pet loss program at the VTH (now part of the Argus Center), I finished my Ph.D. in 1989 having done my dissertation project on separation distress in puppies.

I incorporated Animal Behavior Associates, Inc. in partnership with my major professor, Dr. Philip Lehner, when I was still in graduate school. At that time, I began working with people and behavior problems in their dogs and cats under Dr. Lehner’s supervision. I also became involved in competitive obedience, earning titles on my Dalmatian Katie and her cousin Peaches, my Irish setter Blaze, and my German shorthaired pointer Brandy.

In the midst of all this, my first cat Amos entered my life and I haven’t been without cats since. Cats are so different from dogs, and mine have enriched and expanded my life and my education in uncountable ways. Amos, Tipper, and Dan’s cats Hamlet and Vonnegut have all since passed away, but now our big orange tabby Buffett rules the roost. Buffett allows Ashley, our 11 year old Dalmatian, and Coral, our 4 year old Irish setter puppy to also share the house with him.

My education, experience working as a behaviorist at the VTH after graduate school, and later at a large animal shelter, the Denver Dumb Friends League, and for the past 10 years full time with ABA, Inc. have given me the breadth and depth of knowledge I need to help you and your pets live together happily. And I’ve shared my life with dogs and cats for virtually all my life, so like you, my pets are my kids, my family.

All of us at Animal Behavior Associates, Inc. are committed to helping make life better for your pet, and for you by helping make the pet you share your life with an enjoyable, safe companion.

If you’d like to see my formal vita, detailing my education, employment and experience, click here. If you don’t have Acrobat Reader, which you’ll need to view my vita, click here for a free copy to download.


Meet Dr. Dan Estep

I’ve been interested in animal behavior since a young age. I was first interested in the behavior of deep sea fish, and then later in dinosaurs. During my childhood, my family had several dogs. First there was Ike, a German Shepherd, then Tex also a German Shepherd. When I was a teenager we had Frenchy, a Standard Poodle.

When I went to college at The University of Texas, I majored in Psychology and was lucky enough to become a research assistant in an animal behavior laboratory. We studied the genetics of behavior in mice and gerbils and I became hooked on animal behavior and research.

I went to graduate school at the University of Florida and studied animal behavior under Donald Dewsbury, one of the best known animal behaviorists in North America.
While at Florida I did research on the reproductive behavior and social behavior of wild rodents. Our goal was to understand the evolution and functions of behavioral differences between species. My master’s thesis was on the reproductive behavior of wild house mice while my PhD dissertation was on the reproductive behavior of wild roof rats.

After I graduated from Florida in 1975, I took a job teaching and doing research at the University of Georgia. There I taught animal behavior to psychology, zoology and veterinary students. I studied the reproductive and social behavior of wild chipmunks, golden hamsters, and domestic rats and mice. After a few years, I began a collaboration with researchers at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, outside of Atlanta, Georgia. For over ten years I studied the social and reproductive behavior of monkeys, including Stumptailed, Pigtailed and Rhesus macaques.

At the same time my graduate students and I began to do research on the welfare of laboratory animals. We tried to find ways to enrich the environments of these animals and make their lives better. This led me into the field of applied animal behavior – the field concerned with applying behavioral knowledge for the good of animals and people. While at Georgia, I began applied studies of the behavior of sheep and horses.

Late in my stay at Georgia, I took a research sabbatical at the University of California at Davis and studied the applied animal behavior of livestock with Edward Price, one of the foremost researchers in the field. My interests in applying knowledge to practical problems grew and led me to leave Georgia in 1991 and to join Animal Behavior Associates, Inc. in Denver, Colorado.

At ABA I was lucky enough to marry the boss, Suzanne Hetts, and to learn about the behavior problems of companion animals. I have been helping pet owners and educating the public about animal behavior since joining ABA.

Since graduate school I have not been without companion animals, sharing my life with dogs and cats. I am convinced that companion animals can make our lives richer. It is my goal to help people and animals have the best relationship they can with each other.

If you’d like to see my formal vita, detailing my education, employment and experience, click here. If you don’t have Acrobat Reader, which you’ll need to view my vita, click here for a free copy to download.


Meet Tracey Metzler

Animals have always been a special part of my life. My first dog was Sam a Jack Russell Terrier born just a few months after I was. Sam was my constant companion for the first 16 years of my life. That relationship began my lifelong interest and love for animals. It took many years however before I was able to turn my passion into a career.

I married a great (and patient) guy, and spent several years as a stay at home Mom with my two wonderful children. I still feel that was the most important and (difficult) job I’ve ever had. When my children started school I did too. I attended the Bel-Rea Institute of Veterinary Technology and became a Certified Veterinary Technician. After graduation I was fortunate to go to work with the great crew at Evans East Animal Hospital in Denver. I learned something each and everyday for the eight years I worked there. We had long recommended Animal Behavior Associates for our clients with behavior issues, and in 2007 when the opportunity to work with Dr. Hetts and Dr. Estep presented itself, I knew it was time for a new adventure.

My children are almost grown now. My daughter, a natural at working with animals, is in her second year of college at Colorado State University. Soon my son will be a senior in high school and I am excited to see where his path will lead him. An empty nest is just around the corner, but I will never be lonely because of my wonderful animals. Our current brood consists of Clyde, my dog and walking companion, Toni my loveable and tail-less feline, and Mo, a huge black rabbit who fit in the palm of my hand when he was a baby.

If you call our office or contact us via the web, chances are I will be the one to assist you in getting the information and help you need. I am excited about this opportunity and look forward to working with you!

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