Sindar Valaroma Von Silversmith is one of the top contenders of his breed and is heading to one of the most prestigious canine events in the country.

This Weimaraner, born and raised in New Holland, will be a participant of the Westminster Dog Show in February. Melissa Hartley, owner of Sindar Kennel and co-breeder of Vala, is excited and proud to see one of her dogs head to Madison Square Garden where the event is held.

Reaching such an achievement is a lofty pursuit that takes a lot of work, commitment and understanding of the breed, Hartley said.

Producing a top-notch dog

Hartley is a professional canine behavioral consultant who started working with Weimaraners in 1991 after doing a lot of research to determine which breed of dog she preferred.

“For 22 years, it has been true that the Weimaraner was the right breed for me,” Hartley said.

She later began participating in conformations, or dog shows, which she said is often seen as some sort of beauty competition, but it really is to judge the “structural integrity” of a dog.

For years, she participated in obedience and field competitions, and she didn't start producing litters of Weimaraner puppies until 2011.

Hartley said she's an “ethical breeder,” which means she strives to preserve the integrity of the Weimaraner breed.

To be an ethical breeder, mandatory testing of both the male and female canines that will be bred are required, as each breed has a list of specific health certificates to assure a good, strong litter of puppies, Hartley said.

Hartley said one factor that makes her breed, which is type of a field dog, structurally sound is a canine with a strong center of gravity.

That means that when the dog runs, the chest moves smooth and evenly. If the chest of the dog is bouncing while it runs, it tires out more easily, Hartley said.

Hartley said when trying to preserve a certain breed, ethical breeders think in terms of 100 years and not just a decade. They to try to produce a litter that is as close to the definition of that breed as possible.

Hartley said ethical breeders are not doing this for the awards or the money, but rather to maintain a healthy bloodline of their preferred breed.

“That's why I do it – because I love the breed,” Hartley said. “I want it to move forward in time, and not go extinct. When you love a breed like I do, you want to be a guardian for that breed, that it get's healthier and better with history.”


Sindar Valaroma Von Silversmith, or Vala, who's currently in Atlanta with co-owner Robin Clow, was one of the puppies from Hartley's very first litter.

His mother, Champion Silversmith Sancerre Gruyere, or Sabine, belongs to Hartley. Vala's father, Champion Pike's Peak Silversmith Summit, is in John's Island with his owner, Elena Lamberson.

Vala's father has also earned the titles of Master Hunter, Shooting Dog Excellent, Novice Retrieving Dog, Versatility and Benched Register of Merit, Hartley said.

Vala won a speciality show, which are held for one particular breed, in Atlanta in the fall, Hartley said. She said winning a specialty show is quite illustrious. He's also earned the rank of Grand Champion in another event.

Hartley said there will be other dogs at the Westminster show that are ranked higher than Vala is, but she feels he definitely has a shot at placing. She said even if he doesn't win, just the fact that he's there is an honor in itself.

“It was very exciting because, like I said, the Garden (Westminster) is so prestigious,” Hartley said. “Everyone wants to go there one day and show a dog that you've produced and are very proud of.”

For more information on the upcoming Westminster Dog Show, which will take place on Feb. 10 and 11, visit

Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va. and a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College.