by Dave Fisher
GOD got up one day, looked down from Heaven and said, "Who can I bless today with something really special?" And He picked Dan Brinsky.
Dan Brinsky owns what has become probably the most well known hound in Beagle history. Unless you have been in China for the last several years, and have never picked up any Beagle/rabbit hunting publication, it may have been impossible for you not to have heard about him. His record, too extensive to list here, includes; 2 ARHA National Championships, winner of two SPO AKC Trial of Champions, two first place wins at The Northeast Federation in 1996 and 1999, he has also won State Championships in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In total, as of this writing, he has 39 first place wins at ARHA, UKC and AKC trials; unprecedented in the annals of trial history. "Tank" has also been selected as Purina's 'Chosen of Champions', and has graced the covers of the national Beagle publications six times.
Although I am not a Beagle trialer, it has been impossible not to hear about great dogs like Forest Patch [of the early Patch Hounds] Luci Van Little Man, Fast Delivery Little Harvey, Flat Creek Joshua, and now Run-Em-Over Tank. They have transcended the boundry between trialing and sheer rabbit hunting. I had heard so much about Tank that I drove five hours north to The Allegheny National Forest where Dan Brinsky lives to sit down with him and talk about this incredible dog.
The first thing that hit me about Dan Brinsky is his genuine love for hunting. His modest stone house is adorned with beautiful whitetail mounts, fish, ducks, and the trappings of a lifetime of hunting. Dan's father started and built the house, before his death, and Dan finished it, and also built a kennel later. He's 35 and so far has not been married.
In just a few minutes of my arrival, Tank was let down from his kennel run and followed us into the house. In case you haven't seen him, Tank is a beautiful, black blanket dog, trimmed in rust, with red ticking down his legs. He is a tight, muscular, 14 ¼ inches. He looks like a rabbit hunter!
Tank does just about anything he wants at home, but is very well behaved for a Beagle. Dan has taught him to sit and obey most commands. He will sit and not take meat from the floor until Dan says it's OK. While Dan cut deer salami and got out drinks, I asked him about raising and keeping a dog in the house, although Tank does spend most of his time in the kennel.
"If a dog has brains and wants to do what he was bred and trained for, I don't think keeping him in the house is going to change him," said Brinsky. "I rode Tank all over the country in my truck, he was my companion for a long time. He's even house-broken."
With the introductions out of the way, and Tank nosing the kitchen for some hidden morsel, Dan and I sat down to talk about Tank. Dan is a chatter box, when it comes to dogs and Tank, and it was hard to keep him going slow enough so I could take it all down, but the most over riding question that has been asked by myself and many friends has been:
Dan, how did you get Tank? Most of us thought that you bought him as a puppy from Charlie Fronheiser??
"No, that isn't the case. It's an interesting story really. I was working in New Jersey and had given a lot of thought to getting back into Beagling. My father had beagles and my grandfather had 30 dogs at one time and was very active in trialing. Anyway, the job finished up in New Jersey and I was flying home and had been studying the Pittsburgh newspaper to look for dogs. One ad sounded particularly promising, so I went there on my way home from the airport.
"I bought two puppies from this guy and named them 'Nip' and 'Tuck'. As it happened these dogs had some very good dogs behind them, many of them Field Champions. 'Nipper' became an outstanding rabbit dog, and that's all I was interested in … getting a couple good rabbit hounds. "For some reason, I took Nipper to a trial at Enchanted Mountain one weekend, and although I thought she did well, the judges were not impressed with her. I also thought the dogs were just too fast for me and for Nipper. [Dan did not elaborate on whatever happened to the male littermate 'Tuck'.]
"Nipper did so well rabbit hunting that there came a point in time that I wanted to breed her. I really knew little about the strains of dogs around, and I picked Flat Creek Joshua as the sire just because Charlie [Fronheiser] had this nice looking ad, and was in easy driving distance for me. It's the truth! But, I must admit I had heard of Josh, and Flat Creek Blake and was impressed with their records, this influenced my decision also.
"I was still only looking for a few more rabbit dogs and I planned on keeping a couple of the pups. Nipper had only four pups, as I recall, and I had promised one to a guy I knew. He came and took a female pup, but the pup died of Parvo three days later. He came back for another pup!
"By this time I only had one female left and I practically begged this guy to take this big male [Tank], but he wouldn't, he wanted a female and that was it. So I was left with Tank … it must have been fate. I tried my best to give the dog away!"
Run-Em-Over Tank seems to be a perfect name for a champion dog, and I and many others felt this name was added or changed informally as the hound started winning, so this was one question I wanted to ask.
How did he get that name??
"No, we didn't change anything. Tank was always a big bruiser from the start and he used to run into and bowl over his sisters when they were puppies. One day I said, 'Look at that little Tank, running right over top of the other ones.' The name stuck and sure seemed to fit him. I don't know it must have been fate or something."
Eventually, Tank started running rabbits, and Dan wasn't familiar with trials and was not sure what he was going to do with him, except gun a few rabbits over him. He saw Bill Wright's ad in one of the magazines and he called him and asked him to "evaluate" Tank and to see if he felt the dog was worthy of placing in trials. So when Tank was still a pup, about eight months old, Brinsky put him on a plane for Virginia.
Dan said the dog was there a few days when the Wrights called him, and asked him if Tank could climb fences. "We put him in the training pen and haven't seen him for three days! We're sorry, but he may be lost."
It sounded like the end of Tank, but Bill Wright called back the next day to tell Dan that they had found Tank curled up in a hole totally exhausted from running rabbits. "Well, what do you think of him?" Dan asked Wright.
"Well, I don't know he seems alright. He might be a good rabbit dog, but I don't think he'll make it in the trials … not enough foot."
Dan was not put off, and when he got the hound back, he took him to a qualifying trial at Oil Creek. Tank was barely 10 months old. There were 36 dogs entered in the trial and Tank came away the winner.
"That was it," Dan Brinsky says with a laugh. "The trial bug bit me … and I studied the magazines to see where the next trials were being held!"
But Dan still was a rabbit hunter first and with fall approaching he began gun hunting over Tank again. "We killed 42 rabbits over him that fall, and he was just really learning about hunting," Dan said.
"With one hunting season under his belt, I started to enter him in a few trials the next summer. He placed in a few, but did not seem to be anything special. Charlie Fronheiser had him for five trials, also, then we gun hunted him heavy again the next fall."
By the following summer, Tank was now a mature dog, and with the experience of gun hunting and the trials, Tank began to dominate … and to win … and to win big!
Ok, Dan we've heard all about Tank and his impressive record, but I know that in everything in life there is always a moment when you know you have something really special. When did this happen and when were you the most proud of 'little' Tank??
"I think that moment was certainly in Monticello, Kentucky at the American Rabbit Hound Association National Championship. This was a progressive pack hunt, and I didn't know anything about this. Hell, I didn't even know the rules, let alone what I was supposed to do! I was very nervous, a little overwhelmed about the whole thing. There were 122 dogs entered and I was wondering what I was even doing here!
"Tank was an impressive jump dog by this time, and in the first cast he jumped three rabbits and won easily. On the second cast, I was placed with Everett Morgan, and George Blaine, the 'big guns' of the ARHA. It was some deal, and it must have been fate or something, because the rabbit was suddenly lost in the middle of an open pasture field, with barely a blade of grass in it! The other four dogs came back, and Tank took the rabbit out across the field by himself … of course, he won that cast, and moved on to the winners pack the next day.
"What was really interesting was I was back at the motel that evening and some one knocked on the door and it was Mike Myers. Mike was actually looking for somebody that had stayed in the room the night before. Anyway, we got to talking and Mike stayed there for almost two hours discussing dogs, and the trial. He and I became good friends, and he really made the trial go smoother for me. I met a lot of great people there and at other trials and this has been a really great aspect of trialing for me. There are a lot of good dog people out there.
"The next day, Tank won the trial, and Mike Myers also won in his class. I'll tell you it was some experience! 122 dogs and I (Tank) walk out of there with the championship. I was sure proud of that dog!"
When Dan and Mike Myers were talking, Mike told Dan about another ARHA trial being held the next weekend at The First Capital Rabbit Hunters Assoc. in Chillicothe, Ohio. Tank continued his dominance by jumping more rabbits, and won again … becoming an ARHA Rabbit Champion in just two weekends!
Dan, my other trial friends that have been successful say their dogs win by a certain style or trait, like being able to turn checks quickly. What do you think Tank's best trait is??
Tank runs with his head down, and big bawl mouth. This has really helped him in the SPO trials, but his greatest asset is his brains and the uncanny ability to produce rabbits, and I mean he can produce rabbits! Sometimes it's like he manufactures them or something. And when he finds the rabbit he'll take him out of there. Most of the great dogs were very competitive and they know they are in some kind of contest. They can beat the other dogs by watching for mistakes and thinking ahead. I believe this, and this alone has helped him win a lot in the ARHA. I think this is how he won the ARHA Nationals. He has actually done better in the ARHA because he is more of the 'hunting type' dog. We still gun over him a lot. His best trait? …His brains."
Dan, you've spent more time living with and running Tank than anyone. What do you think made him such a great dog??
"We all know that breeding has a lot to do with it, but experience and desire go a long way too. One of the main reasons I think Tank came along so well was I ran him almost every evening solo. He found out he had to do a lot of the work to keep the rabbit moving. Of course, I will admit, he's a natural at running rabbits. And then his brains come into it again. He runs only as fast as he needs to, if the conditions are good, he naturally speeds up.
"Later as he began to get pretty good at running a rabbit, I'd brace him with his mother. This worked out well, too. Also, I think that gun hunting him has helped Tank. It may not be good for all trial dogs, but I gun over all my dogs. We usually shoot 200 rabbits over Tank during the hunting season."
Dan says that Tank also retrieves … it figures!
In as few of words as possible, Dan, would you describe Tank's running style??
[Brinsky] "Line control … with power …"
What do you think have been some of the best dogs of all time or maybe just some that were your personal favorites??
"I've always been impressed with dogs like Dingus MaCrae, Del Ray Stubby, Buck Shot Mr. Bill, Nicky's Buzz Saw, of course I've always favored Flat Creek Blake and Wright's Shake. Sometimes I think I am more impressed by the dogs ability to go on to produce great pups. I think this is a better indication of the quality of the dog."
As my truck rolled down Interstate 80, I thought a lot about what Dan Brinsky had said. Then something occurred to me. Back in 1995 when I first met my friend Tony Rinaldi and he came to hunt with me in Pennsylvania for the first time, he said something to me that has stuck in my mind all this time. We were hunting on the first morning out, and my dogs were doing a nice job. We had seven exceptional runs and we killed all seven of the bunnies. Tony walked up to me and said, "You know what, you have showed me what is possible, and it's almost like you've taken rabbit hunting to the next level."
I think that Run-Em-Over Tank and Dan Brinsky may have taken Beagling to the next level. Here's what Dan had to say about breeding. His philosophy is pretty simple:
"I try to take the very best dogs, breed them to the very best dogs … and hope for the BEST.
"I don't think that enough emphasis is placed on the bitch line. It's very possible that 50% or 60% percent of the traits may be passed on through the mother. That's why I have tried to get some real quality females to breed Tank to. I have F.C. Brinsky's Shot of Bailey, she is doing well, F.C. Haw Creek Blue Bonnie, F. C. Skeeter's Peach Brandy, F.C. Skeeter's Girl Queen and F. C. Brinsky's Bag of Pebbles. All of these dogs were bought or secured to get quality dogs to breed to Tank. I also have J. & P. Sweet Singin' Shania, she is a daughter to Tank and is doing well at the trials. I really like to gun over her; she's a nice dog.
"Tank had limited breeding for the first two years. Now, with Tank's trial record, more guys are bringing good, quality bitches for breeding.
"Of course, lots of guys have a good rabbit dog that they like so well it's natural that they want to breed it. They see Tank's record, and they want to breed to him. I can't say 'no', that wouldn't be right. These guys are looking for the same thing that everyone is, that one great dog that can help them shoot a few more rabbits, or maybe a dog that could be the foundation for their own breeding program. I think that there are a lot of good dogs out there … there are only a few great ones. Still today, Tank has had less than 100 breedings."
Dan, Tank has been successful in both the SPO (AKC) trials, the ARHA and even the UKC. Would you like to comment on any of these organizations?
"The AKC trials are so 'geographical' that a person has to know what style of dog they like here, and if he can win somewhere with a judge that likes another style of dog over here. It gets confusing because we're all supposed to be using the same rulebook. I don't know what the answer is to this. Southern guys like one type of dog, guys up in New York like another … I don't know what the answer is.
"In the ARHA it is incredible the untapped resource of rabbit hunters and trialers out there. I went to the big trial in Indiana, the US Progressive Pack Championship and there were 198 dogs entered! It's incredible. These are the guys that call me about a breeding. They just want to get better rabbit dogs. Some day I think that the ARHA could become larger than any of the other beagle registries. The potential is certainly there.
"I guess it's not fair unless I also mention the UKC. Tank has done well there also, and has become an HBC [Hunting Beagle Champion]. I really like their format. The UKC scores drive points, speed and the ability to jump a rabbit. Hey, isn't that what we would like in all our rabbit dogs?"
As we tramped around in 8 inches of new snow around Dan's home, trying to find a bunny for Tank to run, I asked Dan about Tank's future.
Tank has won just about everything he could, Dan, is his trial career just about over? And I heard you were offered big money for him. Is there any chance of you selling him??
Dan turned around and gave me a boyish grin, as he yelled, "Come on Shania! Come on Tanker! Get em up!"
"Yeah, I guess his trial career is about over. I don't really have anything else to prove with the dog.
"Yeah, when Tank began winning I had an offer of $10,000. I thought, 'Hey I could build my kennel with that', and I almost took it. Then Tank won another big trial the very next weekend … he was worth more then, but now I couldn't sell him. [Fate again?] I don't think I have the heart to sell him away from here now.
"I have an offer from a guy in South America that wants to fly Tank and me down to his ranch and use Tank for breeding. The way I understand it, this guy wants to start an entirely new registry there and use Tank as the foundation. He has already purchased a few exceptional females and sent me the pedigrees. It is an interesting proposition and I am looking into it more now."
Four National Championships, 39 first place wins in major trials, and now maybe the foundation for an entirely new Beagle registry? Not bad for a dog that Dan Brinsky tried to give away! It surely must have been fate!