Spencer, the official dog of the Boston Marathon, dies after battle with liver cancer

"Every day that Spencer was here with us he was beating the odds exponentially. We have enjoyed sharing our special gift with you all."

Spencer, the official dog of the Boston Marathon, passed away Friday, Feb. 17 at 13.5 years old. Boston Athletic Association

The Boston Marathon’s official dog and beloved cheerleader, Spencer the golden retriever, died at 13.5 years old in his home on Friday.

“We are devastated to share the news of Spencer’s passing,” Spencer’s owner Rich Powers said in a statement. “We were loaned an incredible gift in 2009 and we had to return the gift last Friday. Spencer passed in our home with the help of our compassionate vet on Friday.”

The local therapy dog had surgery on a tumor in 2020, and was diagnosed with terminal spleen cancer in December 2021, and liver cancer this past September with “an aggressive inoperable mass in his liver.” But despite these medical difficulties, Powers says that Spencer continued to live his best life every day.


“He was definitely an inspiration for a lot of reasons. The marathon is about overcoming challenges, and he overcame a lot of them.” Powers told Boston.com “He had some incredible odds to beat, and he beat them. What he’s all about is that you can overcome every single thing you thought you couldn’t.”

With Boston Strong flags clenched in his mouth, Spencer quickly became a celebrity for marathon runners looking for some tail-wagging motivation on race day.

Spencer first appeared on the track in 2015, two years after the Boston Marathon bombings, but went viral in 2018 encouraging runners despite a grey and rainy forecast. In 2019, Spencer stood out even more, dressed in a bright yellow raincoat. And while the 2020 marathon was canceled, Spencer was officially recognized after the 2021 race.

“Every day that Spencer was here with us he was beating the odds exponentially,” Powers said. “We have enjoyed sharing our special gift with you all. He has been an inspiration to hundreds of thousands of people. He was an angel on earth. Any who had the good fortune to actually meet him in person can attest that when you touched him he emitted pure energy and light.

After cheering 2021 Boston Marathon participants, the Boston Athletic Association named Spencer the official dog of the Boston Marathon in April before the 2022 race. And in the wake of his September diagnosis, Spencer was recognized by the Fairmont Copley Plaza with a race medal and a giant portrait in January.

Spencer the golden retriever was honored with a giant portrait by the artist Tom Mosser (right) and his owner Rich Powers in January. Spencer also received a race medal at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. David L Ryan/Globe Staff

Spencer was recognized prior to the 127th marathon “because, at 13.5 years old, Spencer is sadly approaching his own finish line with untreatable liver cancer,” Fairmont Copley wrote in an Instagram post.


Before Spencer’s passing, Powers organized a memorial fundraising page. Donations are given to The Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, which helps “identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs.”

“His whole existence was to make a difference,” Powers said. “And his legacy will hope to continue that.”


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