250 golden retrievers gather at Boston Marathon to pay tribute to beloved dogs

The 127th Boston Marathon was held yesterday, and runners from around the world convened for the annual race. But this year was bittersweet for many runners, after the recent deaths of two beloved fixtures of the event: Spencer, the famous “Boston Strong” golden retriever, and his sister Penny.

The dogs cheered on runners every year and were familiar favorites among the participants. But while they weren’t there this year, they were there in spirit, as the race included a very heartwarming tribute to the beloved dogs.

“Boston Strong” dogs

Every year for 9 years, Spencer would be on the sidelines of the race holding a “Boston Strong” flag to cheer on runners.

Over the years, Spencer brought joy and hope to so many people. In 2018, he braved the wind and rain to cheer runners on. In 2020, when the race was postponed due to COVID-19, he offered some positivity and encouragement.

Spencer often appeared at the race alongside his sister, Penny. Both dogs were owned by Rich and Dorrey Powers.

In recent years, Spencer faced a number of health battles. In 2021, vets found a cancerous tumor on the dog’s spleen, which they were able to remove and treat with chemotherapy.

He finished chemo just in time to return to the Boston Marathon, more inspiring than ever: he was named the race’s “Official Dog” and was honored at a luxury hotel. Many runners stopped to take selfies with him, and one even gave him his own medal.

Spencer and Penny – rest in peace

But months after his triumphant return to the marathon, Spencer was diagnosed with untreatable liver cancer. The family was “beyond devastated to know this amazing angel will leave us soon,” Powers said, according to Boston 25 News.

In February, the owners announced that Spencer had died. “Spencer passed in our home with the help of our compassionate vet on Friday,” they wrote.

Sadly, his sister Penny followed him over the rainbow bridge just eight days later.

“We discovered a tumor on Penny’s spleen and she was bleeding internally. We then had the chest exrayed and the entire abdomen ultra sound where they found that the Hemangio Sarcoma tumors had spread to her liver,” the family wrote.

“We held her, thanked her, and told her we loved her until he last breath.”

Remembered at the Boston Marathon

Runners at this year’s Boston Marathon were heartbroken that neither of the beloved dogs would be at the event — but an inspiring tribute was organized in remembrance of Spencer and Penny.

Massachusetts Golden Meetups, a community group of golden retriever owners, decided to organize a meetup at the Boston Marathon.

The organizers were inspired to do something after learning about the recent passing of the two “Boston Strong” dogs.

“I think it’s a symbol of Massachusetts, but it’s also a symbol of strength and resilience,” group member Elisha Bussiere told WCVB. “I think we’re all going through a time where we all need strength and resilience coming out of the pandemic. Opportunities to make people smile, whether it’s the day of or the day before, I think it’s a way to come together as a community.”

On the day of the race, hundreds of golden retrievers, all wearing “Golden Strong” bandanas, convened near the finish line. While Spencer and Penny could no longer be there to cheer on the runners, plenty of their fellow goldens were there to carry on the tradition.

According to the New York Times, there were about 250 dogs participating in the meetup, and they were all on their best behavior. The furry gathering delighted the crowd.

“The only thing better than one golden is a whole bunch of goldens,” Deb Litterer of Rhode Island told the New York Times. “What I’m surprised about is how good they are all being today. They are all being therapy dogs.”

Boston, MA – April 16: Dorrey and Rich Powers posed for a group photo as they held a portrait of their dogs Spencer, the Marathon Golden, and his sister, Penny, during a meet up for a “Golden Strong” group photo on the Boston Common. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The owners were very moved by the tribute. “It teared me up, pretty amazing,” Rich Powers told WCVB. “There’s something about a golden retriever that just are very, very, very special breed.”

“I’m overwhelmed,” he told the Times. “I think I can safely say that Spencer and Penny have impacted millions now.”

The Boston Marathon will never quite be the same without Spencer and Penny, but it’s inspiring to see such an inspiring tribute with such a huge turnout. Boston Strong forever 💙💛

Please share this heartwarming story!