Sheriff’s office names new bloodhound Miss Peggy after beloved employee who died from COVID-19


A sheriff’s office in Florida’s Panhandle is naming its new bloodhound puppy “Miss Peggy” in a heart-warming tribute to a beloved, longtime office employee who died after battling COVID-19.

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford over the weekend asked for the blessing of the family of Margaret “Peggy” MacDonald, 63. She worked as a staff assistant in Panama City for nearly 30 years under five sheriffs. She died in December 2020, less than two years away from retiring.

Her daughter, Rachael Smith, 44, of Panama City Beach, loved the sheriff’s idea. 

“Mom was always the answer to everything, and if she didn’t know, she’d find it,” said Smith, MacDonald’s eldest daughter. “She always greeted every single person with a smile. She never disliked anyone, it didn’t matter who you were, where you came from, what you did, where you were going.”

Rachael Smith, Peggy MacDonald’s oldest daughter, holds Miss Peggy, the newest canine recruit for the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. (Courtesy of Bay County Sheriff’s Office via Fresh Take Florida)

Now MacDonald’s name and legacy will live on through a brown, floppy-eared bloodhound, now 13 weeks old. It will work at the county jail as a tracking dog. Training was expected to take another three months, and she will likely work for the sheriff’s office for at least seven years, sheriff’s spokeswoman Ruth Corley said.

Miss Peggy was part of a litter from the nearby Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, which bred one of its bloodhounds and gave away the puppies to law enforcement agencies across the state. Six sheriff’s offices across Florida, Jacksonville police and a state prison received puppies.

Ford, the sheriff, said the puppy fell asleep on his lap driving back to Panama City.

“I’m in love with the thing,” he said.

But what to name her? 

The sheriff’s office asked for suggestions on its Facebook page, where one recommendation was “Peggy” in honor of MacDonald. Other suggestions included “Betty” after Betty White, the celebrity and animal lover who recently died at 99, or Casey after the wife of Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

Smith and MacDonald’s husband approved of the gesture. Corley, the sheriff’s spokeswoman, said “Miss” was tacked on out of respect.

“It’s a Southern thing,” she said. “It was important for us to name her Miss Peggy.”

MacDonald died after six weeks in the hospital, leaving her family and coworkers grieving. The sheriff’s office hasn’t hired her replacement – and may never. Her office desk, once adorned with aquariums, remains empty.

Corley and Smith said that if MacDonald knew about the puppy, she would have laughed.

“I bet she’s laughing now,” Corley said. “She would find it just wonderful.”

Peggy MacDonald during a mother-daughter dinner cruise with her eldest daughter on the Betsy Ann Riverboat in Panama City., Fla., in the fall of 2017. (Contributed/Fresh Take Florida)

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at

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