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The Working Dog Center at Penn Vet

The Working Dog Center at Penn Vet

Book tours can be tiring, but there’s nothing like being inspired by the work of the people of The Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia.  I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon there–basically an exercise in intellectual and emotional rapture.

In general, here’s what they do:Our goal is to increase collaborative research, scientific assessment, and shared knowledge and application of the newest scientific findings and veterinary expertise to optimize the performance of detection dogs.

Here’s more from their website:

The dogs “prevent crime and acts of terrorism, working alongside military, police, TSA, and the Department of Defense to find explosives and narcotics. Rescue victims of accidents or disasters, using expert search-and-recovery skills. Detect medical conditions such as ovarian cancer and alert people with diabetes when their blood sugar is out of normal range.”

They collaborate “with top minds at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the Monell Chemical Senses Center, Department of Defense, and Customs and Border Protection, among others. Innovation in collecting and analyzing genetic, behavioral, and physical data, and integrating the latest scientific findings to optimize the success and well-being of detection dogs. Sharing knowledge broadly with the medical and working dog communities as well as animal-lovers of all ages.”

And what did you do today?  See why I was so inspired? I was so lucky to have spent the afternoon with the Center’s founder, Dr. Cindy Otto, the staff and some of their dogs in training. The Center graciously put on a demonstration for me and my colleague Meg Boscov that began with Duke, the pup you see here learning the basics of scent detection. At five months of age, he was already a star, learning quickly to locate the target scent (within the wooden box), and then alert by sitting down beside it. Here he is pushing his nose into the box with the scent, right before sitting down to alert. Lots of well-timed clicking for a job well done!

Next we got a tour of how some of the scents are stored and handled, and how dogs are taught early on to discriminate between “scent and no scent” or “right scent and wrong scent.”  Here’s what I call the “scent wheel” (I made that name up, apologies). The scent is carefully placed into one of the “boxes” attached to the wheel, and then the wheel is spun around in between each trial to avoid location being a cue. Alerting to the correct box gets a click and a treat. I was especially interested in learning about the dogs taught to detect ovarian cancer, not as a diagnostic tool, but as a way for researchers to capitalize on the superior noses of dogs to better understand the chemistry of cancer, and then use that knowledge to make earlier diagnoses.

Some of the dogs trained at the WDC are search and rescue dogs (it was her involvement with 9/11 search and rescue dogs that motivated to Dr. Otto to create a center that integrates applied training and research on behavior and scent detection). The facility has a large area dedicated to “rubble,” the kind of area from which us mortals would keep our dogs away from. Here’s your own search task–find the good dog Sunny in this mess of stuff. He’s looking to rescue a “survivor”.

And here’s what he gets when he finds the victim; nothing like playing tug with someone smushed inside a concrete box.

Here are some more photos: Sunny being prepped by one of the lead trainers to search the rubble, Dr. Cindy Otto in front of the abandoned building they use for training police dogs to find the bad guy, the Center’s bathroom with a dog crate in it (how could you not love that?), hanging cans to condition pups to love pushing through noisy stuff, discs that hold the scent, and Jerry, a police dog in training, capturing the perp after using his nose to find him hiding in a maze of empty rooms.






All in all, an amazing and inspiring afternoon. If you would like to read more about the Working Dog Center, Alexandra Horowitz has an entire chapter about it in her book, Being a Dog. She spent a week there and I love what she wrote about it. Speaking of books, if you’d like to learn more about scent detection dogs and you love good writing, settle down with Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson and What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren.

MEANWHILE, back on the farm. I’m back, that’s about all I have the energy to say. I’m bushed but grateful to all the people I met on book tour, and to all the support I got about my memoir. Maggie is still on leash restrictions, one more week until we go back to the physical therapist to see if she can have a bit more freedom. I’ve never had a dog who wanted to work sheep more than Maggie, and watching her look toward the barn, look at me, look toward the barn–over and over again, isn’t easy. Here’s hoping. But I have to sign off now, time to get the sheep sheared this afternoon. A lovely reminder that spring is really here!

Craft brewery production up 6%

Craft brewery production up 6%

The Brewers Association announced that craft breweries* produced 24.6 million barrels of beer in 2016, 6% more than in 2015. It was the smallest increase since 2008. Retail dollar sales grew 10% to $23.5 billion. Microbreweries and brewpubs delivered 90% of the growth.

“Small and independent brewers are operating in a new brewing reality still filled with opportunity, but within a much more competitive landscape,” BA economist Bart Watson said in a press release. “As the overall beer market remains static and the large global brewers lose volume, their strategy has been to focus on acquiring craft brewers. This has been a catalyst for slower growth for small and independent brewers and endangered consumer access to certain brands.”

Craft Brewery Growth 2017

Additionally, in 2016 the number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew 16.6%, totaling 5,301 breweries, broken down as follows: 3,132 microbreweries, 1,916 brewpubs, 186 regional craft breweries and 67 large or otherwise non-craft brewers. Small and independent breweries account for 99%t of the breweries in operation. Throughout the year, there were 826 new brewery openings and 97 closings. Combined with already existing and established breweries and brewpubs, craft brewers provided nearly 129,000 jobs, an increase of almost 7,000 from the previous year.

During on online press conference, Watson reminded reporters that 75% of the breweries in the country make less than 1,000 barrels annually. As the number of small breweries increases, he said, so does diversity of both business models and beers produced.

* The Brewers Association defines craft breweries as small, independent, and traditional. Some breweries once defined a craft no longer are, and the math behind the numbers can be complicated. Watson provides back ground in a post at the association website: Breaking down the craft beer numbers.

Pairing Beer and Food with Sean Paxton – BeerSmith Podcast #145

Pairing Beer and Food with Sean Paxton – BeerSmith Podcast #145

Sean Paxton, aka “The Homebrew Chef” joins me this week to discuss the pairing of beer and food and how he plans entire multi-course meals around various beers.

Subscribe on iTunes to Audio version or Video version or on Google Play

Download the MP3 File – Right Click and Save As to download this mp3 file

Topics in This Week’s Episode (52:23)

  • Today my guest is Sean Paxton, also known as “The Homebrew Chef”. Sean is a professional beer chef, author and runs a very nice food-beer pairing website at HomebrewChef.com. Sean joins me this week to discuss pairing food with beer.
  • Sean tells us about some of his new projects including the building of his online cookbook/recipe site for beer at HomebrewChef.com
  • We discuss the anatomy of a beer dinner and some recent examples Sean has been the chef for.
  • Sean explains “The Paxton Project” which is a several year old Imperial Quad beer and how he got involved in the project with 10 barrel.
  • We talk about his food pairing selection for an Imperial Quad (duck) and how he prepared that.
  • Sean shares how he approaches pairing each course of the meal with beer
  • We talk about how he tries to reflect the flavors in the beer rather than complementing them when building a meal.
  • Sean shares why he likes to cook with beer and also the ingredients of the beer when building a meal.
  • He shares his latest project – the online web site and offers a special code ‘beersmith’ you can use at HomebrewChef.com to get a discount on memberships.
  • Sean provides his closing thoughts.

Sponsors

Thanks to Sean Paxton for appearing on the show and also to you for listening!

iTunes Announcements: I launched a new video channel for the BeerSmith podcast on iTunes, so subscribe now! At the moment it will only feature the new widescreen episodes (#75 and up). Older episodes are available on my revamped Youtube channel. Also all of my audio episodes are on iTunes now – so grab the older episodes if you missed any.

Thoughts on the Podcast?

Leave me a comment below or visit our discussion forum to leave a comment in the podcast section there.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or BeerSmith Radio

You can listen to all of my podcast episodes streaming live around the clock on our BeerSmith Radio online radio station! You can also subscribe to the audio or video using the iTunes links below, or the feed address

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and my newsletter (or use the links in the sidebar) – to get free weekly articles on home brewing.

Brewers Association 2016 data: U.S. craft brewers up 6% in volume, 10% in retail dollars

Brewers Association 2016 data: U.S. craft brewers up 6% in volume, 10% in retail dollars

us craft beer growth 2016 beerpulse

[Press Release:]

Steady Growth for Small and Independent Brewers – Brewers Association Releases 2016 Statistics for Craft Category

(Boulder, CO) — The Brewers Association (BA)—the trade association representing small and independent (1) American craft brewers—today released 2016 data on U.S. craft brewing (2) growth. With over 5,300 breweries operating during the year, small and independent craft brewers represent 12.3 percent market share by volume of the overall beer industry.

In 2016, craft brewers produced 24.6 million barrels, and saw a 6 percent rise in volume (3) on a comparable base and a 10 percent increase in retail dollar value. Retail dollar value was estimated at $23.5 billion, representing 21.9 percent market share. By adding 1.4 million barrels, craft brewer growth outpaced the 1.2 million barrels lost from the craft segment, based on purchases by large brewing companies. Microbreweries and brewpubs delivered 90 percent of the craft brewer growth.

“Small and independent brewers are operating in a new brewing reality still filled with opportunity, but within a much more competitive landscape,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “As the overall beer market remains static and the large global brewers lose volume, their strategy has been to focus on acquiring craft brewers. This has been a catalyst for slower growth for small and independent brewers and endangered consumer access to certain brands. Small and independent brewers were able to fill in the barrels lost to acquisitions and show steady growth but at a rate more reflective of today’s industry dynamics. The average brewer is getting smaller and growth is more diffuse within the craft category, with producers at the tail helping to drive growth for the overall segment.”

Additionally, in 2016 the number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew 16.6 percent, totaling 5,301 breweries, broken down as follows: 3,132 microbreweries, 1,916 brewpubs, 186 regional craft breweries and 67 large or otherwise non-craft brewers. Small and independent breweries account for 99 percent of the breweries in operation. Throughout the year, there were 826 new brewery openings and only 97 closings. Combined with already existing and established breweries and brewpubs, craft brewers provided nearly 129,000 jobs, an increase of almost 7,000 from the previous year.

Note: Numbers are preliminary. For additional insights from Bart Watson, visit “Breaking Down the Craft Growth Numbers” on the Brewers Association website. A more extensive analysis will be released during the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® in Washington, D.C. from April 10-13. The full 2016 industry analysis will be published in the May/June 2017 issue of The New Brewer, highlighting regional trends and production by individual breweries.

(1) – An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional. Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. Traditional: A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

(2) – Absolute figures reflect the dynamic craft brewer data set as specified by the craft brewer definition. Growth numbers are presented on a comparable base. For full methodology, see the Brewers Association website.

(3) – Volume by craft brewers represent total taxable production.

Unleashed Photo Book by Amanda Jones

Unleashed Photo Book by Amanda Jones

Unleashed Photo Book by Amanda Jones

You may remember photographer Amanda Jones’ series DOG YEARS: FAITHFUL FRIENDS THEN & NOW from a few years ago, which showed dogs at different ages of life. It was beautiful and touching, if not a touch bittersweet. Her most recent endeavor, Unleashed, is just as heartwarming though, and full of even more doggy smiles!

Unleashed Photo Book by Amanda Jones

Unleashed Photo Book by Amanda Jones

Unleashed captures the boundless joy of dogs romping and playing in the great outdoors, free from any restraints. Their expressions of pure happiness are sure to make you smile, too! Amanda has shared a sneak peek of the series here, but Unleashed will be available in book form in April from Chronicle Books. In the meantime, be sure to check out more of Amanda’s photography at www.amandajones.com.

Unleashed Photo Book by Amanda Jones

Unleashed Photo Book by Amanda Jones


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