The Boston Marathon was held yesterday, and people around the country tuned in to watch the world’s oldest annual marathon — but perhaps no one was more excited by the event than Spencer, the friendly golden retriever who has for years been seen cheering on runners from the sidelines.
And this year, after surviving a battle with cancer, Spencer returned to the race, this time as the “Official Dog” — and even got his own medal thanks to one kind runner.
Spencer, the Boston Marathon dog
Spencer, 12, has long been a familiar fixture at the annual Massachusetts marathon, becoming a local celebrity.
He’s always there to give some support, rain or shine — one of his most famous viral moments was in 2018, when Spencer braved the wind and rain to hold two flags reading “Boston Strong.”
Even in 2020, when the race was postponed for the first time during the pandemic, Spencer was still there offering some words of encouragement, along with his sister, Penny.
Honored as the ‘Official Dog’
Spencer has been part of the race so long that to many runners, he’s the marathon’s unofficial mascot.
But this year, Spencer was finally officially recognized by the Boston Marathon as their “Official Dog of the 126th Boston Marathon.”
The Boston Athletic Association recognized Spencer as “an icon for Boston Marathoners every year.” They gave him his own customized bib to celebrate.
And Spencer really got the royal treatment from the Boston Marathon. His owner, Rich Powers, wrote on Instagram that Spencer and Penny were “whisked away by limo” to the Fairmont Copley luxury hotel.
“Every dog has his day,” the owner wrote.
“Thank you so much for this honor,” Powers said at the ceremony, according to WHDH. “I’m very emotional about this dog. He’s extremely special. I’m just glad we can share him with so many people.”
Battle with cancer
The honor is even more poignant given Spencer’s health battles over the past year.
According to Boston.com, Spencer had a 3.5-inch tumor in 2020, which turned out to be benign. But in 2021, another tumor was found on his spleen, which was cancerous.
But vets were able to remove the tumor and treat Spencer with chemotherapy.
It’s been a tough battle, but Spencer has been strong. He finished his last round of chemo just a few weeks ago — just in time for the dog to return to the Boston Marathon.
“When he got sick people were afraid he wouldn’t make it again. The past two marathons, this one included, it was really unlikely he would make it,” Powers told WHDH. “He’s a miracle boy. He’s an inspiration for a lot people that you can do it.”
An inspiring return to the race
When Spencer returned to the Boston Marathon on Monday, he was more popular than ever. Crowds of runners stopped to take a selfie with the iconic dog.
“We had so many runners taking selfies,” the owner wrote on social media. “We had fans even help take selfies for runners to keep get them out on the course as quickly as possible.”
But one runner didn’t just want a selfie — he wanted to do something extra special for Spencer.
According to a Facebook post, Powers says a runner stopped to take a photo with Spencer and asked if he had a medal to wear. After being told he didn’t have one, the runner took his medal from last year’s race out of his pocket and put it around Spencer’s neck.
But when the runner continued on, he left his medal on the dog’s neck — and told him it was his to keep.
“No this is for him….keep doing what you’re doing,” the runner said, according to the post.
“He gave me a fist pump and went back out on the course,” Powers wrote, calling it “one of the most heartfelt moments.”
“I don’t have his his photo because I used his phone and I didn’t get his name. To whoever gave Spencer this gift we are so touched and I will never forget this special moment.”
How sweet — Spencer has given so much love to Boston Marathon runners over the years, it’s great to see them give him such amazing honors after the difficult year he has had.
Can’t wait to see this sweet dog at the race for years to come! Please share this inspiring story!