Boston Marathon sprinters in recent years have seen a grinning – furry – face around the two mile mark. It’s Spencer, the therapy dog, who’s become known as the unofficial mascot for the marathon, because he’s appeared on the sidelines every year since 2015 – regardless of weather.
One particularly rainy long distance race catapulted Spencer’s fame. In 2018 his owner, Richard Powers, chose to put a radiant yellow raincoat on the pup, making him stand out significantly more than he typically does.
Photos of Spencer, who holds a ‘Boston Strong’ flag in his mouth, went viral, and he turned into a motivation symbol for sprinters and observers alike.
“I mean, when I walk the dog people just stop and say, ‘This is Spencer?’ They act like they’re meeting Sandra Bullock,” Powers told CBS News.
During the long distance race, a few sprinters stopped in their tracks to take selfies with the pup – the line sometimes growing to 20 sprinters long.
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However in 2020, along with the rest of the world, the Boston Marathon shut down. And Spencer was diagnosed with a tumor. His owners were incredibly stressed and worried, however Spencer has heart, and is a fighter.
“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,” Powers said.
Sadly, vets as of late caught yet another tumor growing – this one cancerous – and Spencer began chemotherapy. Powers didn’t figure his cherished pup would make it out to the long distance race this year.
“Miraculously, he’s still here with us and an even bigger miracle, he was strong enough to go to the marathon,” he said.
After recuperating, Spencer had returned to work – not just to being the mascot for the long distance races – but as a therapy dog, alongside his companion, Penny, who is additionally a golden retriever. Powers takes his two therapy pups around to hospitals, senior living centers, and schools.
“He’s a gift to us and we’re very lucky to have him, and we figured he’s too good not to share so we want to share him with as many people as we possibly can,” Powers said.
Spencer was visiting a neighborhood secondary school last week when he got whisked away on a limo to Fairmont Copley Plaza, close to the end goal of a long distance race. There, he got some enormous news: The Boston Athletic Association was crowning him the official dog of the 126th Boston Marathon.
It was a shock, yet well deserved.
“He just represents hope, it’s the best way to describe him. An inspiration. And he just kind of represents the regular guy, you know, who’s fighting the good fight and plugging away and getting by,” Powers said. “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,” he continued.
Powers said Spencer probably doesn’t even know how special he is, yet one long distance runner during the current year’s race needed to show him with token of appreciation.
“We were taking selfies. One of the runners asked if Spencer had a medal and I said no. So he took his medal out of his pocket and put it on Spencer and he gave me a fist bump and said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ And he left,” Powers said, as tears began to build up at the generosity of the stranger.
“So he gave Spencer his medal from 2021,” he said, lifting up the medal. “And I have no idea who the guy is. But he gave it to Spencer. So, Spencer has a Boston Marathon medal.”
Spencer gets countless messages thanking him for the hope he spreads at the long distance races – and beyond them.
“He does make a difference. It’s like, people would reach out and say, ‘I can’t believe I’m crying over a dog I never met,'” Powers said. “He’s just amazing. He’s an amazing guy. He’s very, very special. And we’re very lucky to have him.”