Navy veteran with terminal cancer sets sights on final Westminster Dog Show

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A Navy veteran who has become a staple on the competitive dog breeding circuit said this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will likely be her last, as she has chosen to forgo surgery for terminal ovarian cancer.

Loren Marino, 42, and her Cesky Terrier Hector, 12, are well-known fixtures at the annual show, and have been competitors elsewhere for nearly a decade, The American Kennel Club reported. The pair from Toms River, New Jersey, took home an Award of Merit in 2014 and Best of Breed in 2015 at Westminster.

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

Marino was first diagnosed with what is considered pre-leukemia in 2000. It progressed to full-blown leukemia in 2010, and she was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer in September, reported. While she was offered options for surgery, doctors told her it would only possibly slow down the disease, but would not be a cure.

“The surgery was risky with my various conditions,” she told, “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.”

Marino currently takes 48-52 medications daily, but cannot take pain relief drugs.

“My tolerance for pain is high,” she told “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.”

In addition to Hector, Marino also has Daphne, a West Highland White Terrier, and three other Ceskys entered in Westminster. She credits her parents with helping her with dog sitting and other chores as she juggles the cancer and life.

Aside from Westminster, Hector and Marino also competed at Crufts, the World Dog Show in Milan, and other stops along the east coast, reported. Already aware that her health was failing, she created a bucket list for the two of them.

“My time with Hector has been beneficially physically and psychologically,” she 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,” she told the website.

After Westminster, Marino has her sights set on compete at Crufts in March, but she said everything right now is day-to-day, reported.

“There’s no expiration date stamped on the bottom of your foot,” she said.

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