After two years, the Boston Marathon was finally back to normal. With a cancellation in 2020 and a limited capacity in 2021, the world was excited to see this historic race back to its regular schedule. And perhaps no one was more excited than Spencer, the beloved Golden Retriever who has been lending support to racers since 2015. This therapy dog is a fan favorite and racers line up to get their picture taken with him. In fact, he's become so synonymous with the race that the Boston Marathon named him the official dog of the 126th Boston Marathon.
Spencer, along with his companion Penny, visits schools, hospitals, and senior centers as a therapy dog. But when April rolls around, he takes his skills and uses them to support thousands of runners at the marathon. Spencer first gained notoriety in 2018, when his owner Richard Powers put him in a yellow raincoat. This made him stand out from the crowd and photos of the pooch with his “Boston Strong” flag in his mouth went viral. Since then, runners can't resist the opportunity to take their photos with this gentle soul.
This year was particularly meaningful for Spencer and his family, as the beloved dog was diagnosed with cancer in 2020. His fighting spirit shined through and Spencer beat the cancer. “He got the care he needed; he survived. In 2021, he was back on the course and it was really kind of a miracle and that really hit home to a lot of people,” shared Powers.
Unfortunately, Powers recently found out that Spencer had another cancerous tumor and needed to start chemotherapy. That made his presence at this year's marathon even more special. “Miraculously, he's still here with us, and an even bigger miracle, he was strong enough to go to the marathon.”
While Spencer may not realize the impact that he's having, Powers is keenly aware of the hope that his dog radiates to others. “He just kind of represents the regular guy, you know, who's fighting the good fight and plugging away and getting by. Everybody out there has a Spencer story–whether it's a person or a dog or a cat or themselves – they're going through some personal struggle, they're just doing the best they can. And then when they see him just kind of pushing forward and getting the job done, it just gives people a lot of hope.”
The impact he's having is exemplified by an incredible gift that one runner left Spencer this year. After taking a selfie with Spencer, the runner asked Powers if the pooch had a medal—which is given out to those who complete the race. When Powers replied that Spencer did not, the runner took his 2021 medal out of his pocket and placed it around Spencer's neck. After waving goodbye, the runner took off, leaving Spencer with this precious gift. Though Powers does not know the name of the runner, he appreciates this incredible gesture and knows that this is just another sign of the impact Spencer has on others.
If you want to see what Spencer and his companion Penny are up to year-round and stay updated on his health you can follow their adventures on Facebook.