This article appeared in the April 20, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Boston Marathon cheerleaders: When the 12th man is a dog

Courtesy of Rich Powers, The Henry Studio
Spencer with a Boston Marathon medal on April 18, 2022.

In football, it’s known as the 12th-man effect – the power of fans to lift the spirits of the (11-man) home team. 

At the world’s oldest annual marathon, spectators line the entire 26.2-mile course and are integral to the experience. Friends and families wave homemade signs and cheer themselves hoarse. At the Wellesley College “scream tunnel,” women offer high-fives and kisses. And then, there’s Spencer.

Since 2014, the golden retriever has been inspiring runners. He sits patiently at about the 2.5-mile mark, an early milestone of encouragement. In his jaws, he clenches a small blue “Boston Strong” flag.

On the miserable morning of April 16, 2018, runners and spectators faced a cold, drenching rain and winds gusting to 40 mph. But Spencer was at his post, wearing a raincoat. His photo that year became a viral symbol of unflagging faithfulness. Since then, many runners now pause for a quick selfie with this famous icon of unconditional support. 

Last week, the Boston Athletic Association recognized the 12-year-old therapy canine as the “official dog” of the 126th Boston Marathon.  

“We don’t really do it for the recognition – we do it to inspire,” Spencer’s owner Rich Powers told The Boston Globe. “It’s almost been like a mission for my wife and I to share this dog with the world. He’s literally too good to keep to ourselves.”

On Monday, a runner stopped and put his 2021 Boston Marathon medal around Spencer’s neck and snapped a photo. “I said don’t forget your medal,” wrote Mr. Powers on Facebook. “He replied ... ‘No this is for him ... keep doing what you’re doing.’”

Who are the Spencers in your life, who show up again and again to support your endeavors?

This article appeared in the April 20, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 04/20 edition
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