Select Board denies request to place Spencer statue at Ashland Community Center
A 3-2 vote of the Ashland Select Board denied a request to place a bronze statue of Spencer, the official dog of the 126th Boston Marathon, near the spot where he sat for many years cheering on Marathon runners. Source: bit.ly/GoFundMe_SpencerStatue
By Theresa Knapp
The Ashland Select Board has denied a request to place a statue of Spencer, the official dog of the 126th Boston Marathon, on the lawn of the Community Center, just a stick’s throw away from where he used to cheer on Marathon runners.
After an hour-long discussion at a meeting on July 12, the measure was supported by members Robert Scherer and Yolanda Greaves, but denied by Joseph Magnani Jr., Brandi Kinsman, and Claudia Bennett.
Spencer was a local therapy dog who cheered on Marathon runners from 2015 to 2022 at Ashland State Park. When he died in February, he had a world-wide following, and his death was covered by many news outlets including the Boston Globe, New York Times, and People Magazine.
Spencer’s owner, Rich Powers of Holliston, made a presentation to the Select Board and requested that specific spot for the 40-inch bronze statue because of the dog’s unique connection to that area of Ashland. He said runners looked forward to seeing Spencer in Ashland, and he knows runners will stop to take photos with the statue.
Powers said, “Spencer had been cheering on the Marathon since about 2015 out there, and runners would stop. He had quite the modest following until 2018 when it was the most disgusting weather out there…but Spencer and I were out there and he was wearing my raincoat and we stood and cheered the runners and the reaction from the runners was incredible…and he became like an icon right after that, he was definitely a symbol of perseverance.”
Powers is in the process of raising the $50,000 (with a GoFundMe account) needed to build the statue, and said “I would love to say ‘the Town of Ashland graciously donated this spot so Spencer could have his forever home.’” He said there is a retail location in Ashland that has agreed to host the statue if the town denies his request.
Select Board member Yolanda Greaves supported the proposal and said, “I remember when he passed away, they’re like ‘the dog from Ashland,’ and I remember telling a reporter, ‘No, no, he doesn’t live in Ashland, he just sat in Ashland; but that was his connection to the Marathon, was Ashland.”
“This is something unique to that spot and linked to the Marathon,” Select Board Chair Robert Scherer said in support. “I think it’s one of those little local, I won’t call it ‘quirky,’ but it’s kind of like there’s a statue of a dog on the Marathon route in Ashland based on these events and it’s important to people; I kind of look at it as a bit of an opportunity for us, frankly.”
Resident Helen Nickole expressed her support during the meeting. “I think it’s totally appropriate to have the statue exactly where the dog was because it’s a remembrance…I really think that the statue of the dog who sat there supporting the runners is a wonderful tribute not only to the dog but for the runners to see when they go by.”
But the majority of the board was against the proposal for various reasons.
Brandi Kinsman said, “I’m not against statues but what I do feel, very strongly, is that if we are going to put a statue on town property, it needs to have a deep connection to the community, not the Marathon but to the community. And this is not a canine that served in the Ashland Police Department; this is not a dog - and I know that he was at a vaccination clinic but it wasn’t like he was at the Community Center working with our seniors; he wasn’t in the schools; this wasn’t a dog that was part of our community. So I personally feel like it is not appropriate for us to put a Spencer statue on town property.”
Kinsman suggested the statue would be more appropriate on private property or at the International Marathon Complex that is being built in Hopkinton. She also suggested Ashland could honor Spencer in the way “we generally honor volunteers and people in the community” with a proclamation or a plaque.
“I think what he is and how his memory is preserved is important, I don’t think a statue is an appropriate way on town property to do that.”
Board members Magnani and Bennett also opposed the request.
About the Spencer statue
Rich Powers and a small team of volunteers have selected a sculptor to create the statue of Spencer. Buccacio Sculpture Services is based in Canton and currently has other statues along the marathon route that he maintains, according to Powers.
A GoFundMe to raise $50,000 needed for the project can be found at www.gofundme.com/f/statue-of-spencer-boston-marathonofficial-dog