Spencer, a feisty golden retriever who was the official dog of last year’s Boston Marathon, was honored by the Boston Athletic Association Wednesday with a portrait and an honorary medal.
Spencer, a 13-year-old who in recent years became a beloved figure on the race route, was recently diagnosed with untreatable liver cancer.
“Our boy is about to turn on to Heartbreak Hill,” said Spencer’s owner, Rich Powers “He would just want to continue to inspire. He’s made a difference with a lot of people.”
The painting features the dog holding his signature “Boston Strong” flag in his mouth.
“The image of Spencer holding those banners with the heart and the Boston Strong image, it’s a playful image, it’s fun, but it’s also an image of endurance,” artist Tom Mosser said at the ceremony, held at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston. “And that’s what you need in life and when you’re running a marathon.”
Powers commissioned the portrait in October after learning about Spencer’s diagnosis. The image will be reprinted on posters, mugs, and other merchandise to raise money for the Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.
Spencer first garnered media attention during the 2018 Marathon, when a video of him holding a double-sided flag while wearing a raincoat went viral. Since then, he’s become a familiar sight for spectators and runners at his usual spot near Ashland State Park. In April, Spencer was recognized by the BAA as the official dog of the Marathon.
“I think Spencer is just emblematic of the spirit and the support of the Boston Marathon course,” Scott Stover, the BAA’s chief marketing officer, said Wednesday. “When you run this race you expect the support of the crowd and Spencer is a part of that.”
After the BAA presented Spencer and Powers with honorary Marathon metals, the Copley Plaza Hotel presented Spencer with a frame naming him a “honorary canine ambassador.”
Powers said that he and his family will be cheering on the runners at the next Marathon, with or without Spencer. While heartbroken about the diagnosis, he noted that 13 years old is “excessively geriatric” for a golden retriever, and that Spencer’s legacy will live on.
“He felt the energy of the runners. He felt it and he knew it was a big deal,” Powers said. “When he held that flag, he wanted to hold that flag, and he could feel it was making a difference.”
People who want to help can donate to the golden retriever lifetime study, he said.
“We want to make people aware that we get it when you lose a pet,” Powers said. “It’s a family member.”
Kate Armanini can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @KateArmanini.