Golden retrievers honor Boston Marathon dog Spencer
▶ Watch Video: Spencer the therapy dog named official dog of the Boston Marathon
For years at the Boston Marathon, runners were able to look along the sidelines for a beacon of hope: A golden retriever named Spencer waving a “Boston Strong” flag. Spencer had been a staple at the race since 2015, but sadly, he died earlier this year. At the 2023 marathon, his legacy lived on, thanks to fellow goldens and their owners.
A group of golden retrievers walked to the iconic finish line on Boylston Street near Copley Square on Sunday to honor Spencer.
MA Golden Meetups, a group that organizes such events for golden retrievers, planned the walk. When Spencer died in February, MA Golden Meetups was holding an event, the group’s co-founder Elisha Bussiere told CBS Boston.
“So we all drove to the event, get out of our cars, and everyone’s faces were just very sullen, somber. Just heartbroken,” she said. “So one of the members suggested why don’t we have a representation at the Boston Marathon since Spencer won’t be there this year and it just grew from there. It was a wonderful idea.”
The group also sold “golden strong” bandanas, raising about $1,000 which went to Spencer’s owners to be donated to Morris Animal Foundation, which works to research hemangiosarcoma, a type of cancer.
In 2020, Spencer was diagnosed with a tumor. “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,” his owner, Rich Powers told CBS News last year.
But in 2022, vets caught another tumor — this one cancerous — and Spencer began chemotherapy. Powers didn’t think his beloved dog would make it out to the marathon last year, but he did, waving his Boston Strong flag.
He received a surprise honor ahead of the race: Being named the official dog of the 126th Boston Marathon by the Boston Athletic Association. “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.”
This year, dogs have an opportunity to wave “Spencer Strong” flags along the course Monday in the dog’s memory.
Spencer was not only a loyal marathon attendee, but he also worked as a therapy dog alongside his companion, Penny, who was also a golden retriever. About one week after Spencer lost his battle with cancer, Penny died after vets discovered she had a tumor on her spleen and she was bleeding internally, Powers announced.
Powers shared a photo of scores of dogs and their owners gathered on Sunday. “Quite a touching tribute to an amazing pair. Spencer & Penny forever in our hearts,” he wrote.
CBS News has reached out to MA Golden Meetups and Powers and is awaiting response.