Loren Marino hopes to take her Westminster Dog Show buddy to Disneyland and a Xena Warrior Princess convention

By Kelli Bender
Updated February 16, 2016 06:18 PM

For Navy veteran Loren Marino and her Cesky terrier Hector, competing in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is an old trick. Sadly, their run at this year’s competition will probably be the pair’s last.

Marino, 43, has elected not to get surgery for her terminal ovarian cancer, reports The American Kennel Club. In 2000, the Toms River, New Jersey, resident was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndromes which progressed into leukemia in 2010, but the recent addition of ovarian cancer was a turning point for Marino.

“The surgery was risky with my various conditions,” Marino told the AKC of the operation that would only slow the spread of the cancer, “and the recovery time was lengthy and posed plenty of limitations on what I could do. I opted for quality of life for my time left.”

Instead of focusing on treatment, Marino has dedicated herself to completing one last round of competitions with her beloved dog Hector. This is the duo’s third trip to Westminster together. In 2014 they earned an Award of Merit and in 2015 Hector, 12, took home Best in Breed.

“It would sure be nice to bow out with another breed win,” Marino said.

Marino has several other hopes for the future which she has turned into a bucket list of activities for her and her dogs.

“Right now everything is day-to-day. I hope to make a trip to California in April with Hector and Daphne, my Westie, to a Xena [Warrior Princess] retreat. It’s kinda silly, but Daphne is a TV addict and loves the Xena TV show on Netflix, which she can manipulate on the tablet on her own,” she said. “Xena is something that I watched with my husband [now deceased] while in the Navy and I enjoyed it then. So I thought it might be fun to attend.”

Also on the roster is a trip to Disneyland with Hector and, hopefully, a chance to compete at Crufts in March. Marino has started a GoFundMe page to help raise money to cover these final wishes and her medical costs. She is currently on 48 – 52 medications a day, but none of them are pain killers because of the effects the pills could have on her blood. Many of the medications are to help combat Marino’s growing number of allergies and deficiencies that pop up as her immune system deteriorates.

“My tolerance for pain is high,” Marino told AKC. “I am a fighter and at the same time I want what’s best for my dogs every day. I refuse to just lie down and wait.”

It’s a fight she feels she owes Hector after everything he has done to keep her happy and as healthy as possible through her battle against illness.

“My time with Hector has been beneficial physically and psychologically,” Marino said. “Keeping him in condition requires me to get up, get out, play ball, take walks, and make periodic trips in the car for his special burger treats. The two of us have checked off a lot of my bucket list. When I do feel ill, he is the first to make me smile. He knows when to stay by my side and just be there, and when to push me or make me laugh.”