Roughly 200 dogs and their owners this weekend paid tribute to Spencer, the official Boston Marathon dog, who died in February from cancer.
Dubbed the “Boston Marathon Golden Retriever Meetup,” the dogs and their owners got together for a special walk that ended at the finish line on April 16, one day before the Boston Marathon.
“We thought, 'You know what? Spencer’s not going to be able to make to the marathon this year. Let’s go for him,'” Elisha Bussiere, co-founder of Massachusetts Golden Meetups, told NBC Boston affiliate WJAR.
Spencer became the race’s official dog after he appeared in a video that went viral in 2018. He was filmed holding “Boston Strong” flags in his mouth along the route.
The dogs that came out in honor this weekend wore yellow bandanas that said, “Golden Strong,” with a dollar for each bandana sold donated to the Morris Animal Foundation's canine cancer research.
“It’s just more than we ever imagined,” Bussiere said about the response to the event.
The response to the event was so overwhelming, in fact, that registration was closed a week before the meetup took place. Organizers say they would like the event to become a tradition that continues to grow.
“I think that we all need hope, we all need happiness,” Bussiere said. “Especially recent years, everyone can use a smile. Who better than golden retrievers to bring that smile?”
Spencer has indeed become part of the pageantry of the marathon.
A portrait of him was put on display at the marathon headquarters before his death in January. He also received a medal.
“I can’t tell you how many runners say Spencer was the reason they ran the marathon,” his owner, Rich Powers, told WJAR after he died.
“It’s heartbreaking to know that he won’t be there this year. But in spirit, he’ll be there,” he added.
“He had overcome some amazing challenges — he almost died in 2020 from a massive tumor, and then he was able to make the marathon again, which was a miracle. And he’s living proof that you can overcome what you thought you couldn’t.”
This year’s marathon marks the 10th anniversary of the bombings that rocked the race in 2013, killing three people and leaving more than 260 injured. It will be the 127th edition of the famed race.