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.
Spencer has become an icon of the event, beloved by runners who stop to take photos with him, and last year was even named the “Official Dog” of the race.
Sadly, Spencer is also facing some serious health issues: after surviving a previous cancer battle, he was recently diagnosed with a terminal, untreatable liver cancer.
But with his own race soon coming to an end, Spencer recently received a huge honor memorializing his years of inspiration.
Spencer, 13, has been a local celebrity for years, thanks to his annual appearances at the Boston Marathon, often holding his famous “Boston Strong” sign, encouraging the runners.
He’s always there, rain or shine. One of his most famous viral moments was in 2018, when he braved the wind and rain:
And in 2020, when the race was postponed due to the pandemic, Spencer was there to offer some encouragement when people needed it the most.
Even cancer couldn’t hold him back. In 2021, Spencer faced a health crisis when a cancerous tumor was found on his spleen, but vets were able to remove it and treat the golden retriever with chemotherapy.
Spencer recovered just in time for last year’s marathon, where he got some extra special attention. He was named the race’s “Official Dog” for the first time, treated with a limo ride to a luxury hotel.
Runners lined up to take selfies with Spencer, and one runner even gave the dog his own medal.
But sadly, just months after that triumphant return, Spencer got even more troubling health news.
According to Boston 25 News, Spencer’s owner Richard Powers recently announced that Spencer was diagnosed with untreatable liver cancer in the fall, which is likely to be terminal.
The family is “beyond devastated to know this amazing angel will leave us soon,” Powers said.
It’s heartbreaking news — but Spencer recently got one more special tribute thanking him for all his “Boston Strong” encouragement.
At a ceremony at Fairmont Copley Plaza on Wednesday, 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.”
The artwork won’t be displayed in the hotel but will go to Spencer’s family. They know the end is coming soon for their beloved dog, so the portrait will be a way to always remember him as he was.
“Our boy is about to turn onto Heartbreak Hill and is heading to his own finish line,” Powers said at the unveiling ceremony. “He’s doing very well, he still does his walks…But his days are limited. We’re not sure how long he’s going to be here, so we reached out to Tom.”
According to Boston 25 News, the artist is also planning to sell prints for $100 to the public with proceeds going to the Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.
According to CBS News, Powers said that Spencer may be able to attend one last Boston Marathon, but not in the same capacity as he “does not have the stamina for that any longer.”
But Spencer can rest easy knowing that his legacy is secure, and he’ll always be remembered as the true dog of the Boston Marathon.
“We’ve been given a great gift with Spencer. Early on we realized he was extremely special and our mission was to share him with the world,” Powers said. “He’s inspired all over the globe. I’ve had Australian runners email me to find out exactly where he will be standing so they can meet him.”
Spencer has truly inspired so many people over the years, and we hope he’s happy and comfortable for the rest of his days 💔❤️
This portrait is a great honor and a reminder of the impact Spencer has had. Please share this news ❤️