Is the last retrieve looming?

Change is inevitable. We all know that. We also know we don’t always have to like it. Some changes are harder to deal with than others.

The Minot Retriever Club has been in existence since 1956 when members established their training grounds west of Minot. The club acquired the grounds in a unique way. The initial group of enthusiastic retriever owners agreed to help a landowner with a down payment on property he wished to buy in exchange for a few acres on which to train dogs.

When the retriever group recognized they would need additional funding to keep the club afloat, they brought in the Harlem Globetrotters. The fundraiser worked. Following what amounted to a probationary period with the American Kennel Club, the Minot Retriever Club received authorization to host sanctioned AKC field trials.

Word spread among the retriever community across the U.S. and Canada that the Minot club’s trial grounds were first-rate. Minot became known for graciously hosting well-organized events. Professional dog trainers took notice and began making the annual Minot trial a fixture on their calendars.

Throughout the years, I’ve witnessed some exceptional dog work at the Minot Retriever Club and met some extraordinary trainers. All of it was made possible by the efforts of club members and improvements made to the training and trialing facility.

Minot is scheduled to host another AKC field trial in August, but uncertainty surrounds the event. The small dam that backs up water onto the field trial grounds may soon be breached. A request to do so has been made by the Ward County Water Board to the State Water Commission. The proposed project would cause water on the club’s trial grounds to flow back into the Des Lacs River. The result would be a loss of a suitable facility to host a field trial.

The dam, known as Burlington Dam No. 1, was constructed in the “Dirty ’30s” to create an irrigation source for small tracts of land. That need vanished long ago. Most recently, during the historic flood of 2011, the dam attracted the attention of homeowners living downstream who feared the structure would give way and add to their flooding woes. Similar concerns exist today.

According to the State Water Commission, the reason for removing the slide gate outlet at the dam is, “because of public concern during flooding events and the poor condition of the dam embankment.” With the slide gate outlet removed the water level upstream would drop accordingly, including the loss of water at the Minot Retriever Club.

Club members I have talked to are all sympathetic to the desires of homeowners downstream and have expressed they are as concerned as anybody about a catastrophic event downstream. They also say they hope some type of compromise can be reached that would answer both the concerns of downstream homeowners and the club. Such a compromise may not be possible.

While it is true that the heyday of retriever training and trialing in Minot may have passed, it would indeed be sad to see it end completely – or, as one member put it, “go down the drain.”