Running the Boston Marathon is no small feat, but for years runners have had someone special on the sidelines to cheer them on and keep them going: a golden retriever named Spencer, often seen with his “Boston Strong” flag.
The dog became an icon of the event: runners would stop in their tracks just to take photos with him, and he was even named the “Official Dog” of the race.
But sadly, after battling cancer in recent years, Spencer has passed away.
Owners Rich and Dorrey Powers announced the news on social media, months after Spencer was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.
“Spencer passed in our home with the help of our compassionate vet on Friday,” the owners wrote. They wrote that Spencer had beat the odds and hung on longer than expected, but after he became weak they knew the time had come.
“We have enjoyed sharing our special gift with you all. He has been an inspiration to hundreds of thousands of people. He was an angel on earth. Any who had the good fortune to actually meet him in person can attest that when you touched him he emitted pure energy and light.”
“Spencer will forever be in our hearts and we are devastated with his passing.”
Spencer: “Boston Strong” dog
Spencer was an iconic fixture of the Boston Marathon for 9 years, encouraging runners with his “Boston Strong” sign.
He’s always there, rain or shine. One of his most famous viral moments was in 2018, when he braved the wind and rain:
In 2020, when the race was postponed due to the pandemic, Spencer was there to offer some encouragement when people needed it the most:
Spencer sadly faced a number of health battles in recent years, but still didn’t let it hold him back. In 2021, vets found a cancerous tumor on the dog’s spleen, which they were able to remove and treat with chemotherapy.
Spencer finished chemo just in time to return to the Boston Marathon, more inspiring than ever.
“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,” Rich Powers told WHDH at the time. “He’s a miracle boy. He’s an inspiration for a lot people that you can do it.”
After years of being the race’s unofficial doggy mascot, Spencer was named the “Official Dog” of that year’s race, and was honored by marathon officials at the Fairmont Copley luxury hotel.
Returning to his usual spot on the marathon route, Spencer was more popular than ever.
“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.”
One runner did something extra special: he gave Spencer his medal from the previous year’s race, and Spencer looked thrilled by the honor. The owner called it “one of the most heartfelt moments.”
Cancer diagnosis & final tribute
But after years of inspiring countless marathon runners, it became clear that Spencer would soon be reaching his own finish line.
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.
It became clear that Spencer would not reach another Boston Marathon. But in January, he received a beautiful, final honor.
At a ceremony at Fairmont Copley Plaza, a giant portrait of Spencer was revealed, created by artist Tom Mosser. The portrait shows the famous dog with his iconic signs.
“The sight of Spencer’s ears blowing in the wind as he held the marathon banners so firmly on that cold and rainy day is so iconic,” said Tom Mosser. “I’ve run five marathons so I especially loved seeing the smiles of the runners each year as they saw him. It was such a pleasure creating the piece to celebrate Spencer and the Boston Marathon.”
Rest in peace
After the family announced that Spencer had died, the Boston Athletic Association issued a statement paying tribute to the iconic dog.
“We at the B.A.A. are saddened to learn of the passing of one of our dearest and most loyal Boston Marathon supporters, Spencer,” their statement read, according to WMUR.
“Spencer annually encouraged participants in Ashland, embodying the unwavering spirit of Boston’s athletes as he showed up year after year regardless of the weather conditions. We were honored to have recognized Spencer as the Official Dog of the Boston Marathon in 2022, and extend our condolences to the Powers family, sister Penny, and his many friends and admirers around the world.”
Spencer truly made a huge impact, and he’ll always be remembered as the one true Boston Marathon dog.
But while its the end of an era, Spencer’s legacy will still live on in future marathons: according to WMUR, the family plans to continue attending the Boston Marathon with their other dog, Spencer’s sister Penny.
Rest in peace, Spencer — thank you for inspiring so many runners over the years. You will be forever missed.
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