Local pet celebrity and marshmallow fiend Peggy still has a fighting chance to be crowned America’s Favorite Pet.
As of Monday, the 6-month-old bandit was in first place in the voting for a top prize of $10,000 and a two-page spread in In Touch Weekly magazine.
“It’s almost as if she’s playing into all this,” said self-proclaimed “Coon Daddy” Billy Smith, Peggy’s owner. “She’s always been such a sweet little pet.”
Smith said Peggy has taken her quirky behavior up a few notches as he documents her antics for his friends (and Peggy’s fans) on social media. Peggy recently decided to obtain a dazzling piece of candy — a Ring Pop — and hold onto it with all four paws to eat it.
“This is the first year they has had it where it’s any animal,” Smith said about Animal Kingdom, the group overseeing the contest. “It’s always been dogs and cats, and they would give $5,000 to the favorite dog and $5,000 to the favorite cat.
According to Smith, there were at least three other raccoons in the competition, but Peggy is the only contender left in the running.
“The first in each group will be in for the final round,” Smith said. “Then they’re going to take the runner-ups and do a three-day voting spree to decide which runner-up gets to be added into the final round to make it where five animals are competing.”
Smith said once the top five are selected, voting for the final winner will be done over 10 days.
“She’s doing quite well,” Smith said.
Smith said he is amazed at the public response and support he is getting even from people he hasn’t met.
“If you look at my activity on Facebook before Peggy, you’ll see I just didn’t do a whole lot,” Smith said. “At first, I think it may have been a tad bit annoying, because I was posting every day about Peggy.”
Smith has started receiving requests from hometown friends who want to see Peggy eat snacks and what she gets up to.
“I talked to Tiffani Williamson (Smith’s former girlfriend), and she told me, ‘You need to make the public fall in love with her the same way you have,'” Smith said. “‘That’s how you’re going to make her America’s favorite pet.'”
Williamson’s statement resonated with Smith, so he continued to post about Peggy when she did something that he found endearing — like pulling him in for a hug, spontaneously rubbing his feet or scampering away with a Ring Pop.
“It’s getting more and more real each day,” Smith said. “I was thinking to myself (when she was in first place for a week), ‘You know, we really might win this.'”
Vote for Peggy here: