The year was 1924 and the setting Pennsylvania. Pep the black Labrador was sentenced to a lifetime behind bars and would forever be branded a killer for the brutal murder of then-Governor Gifford Pinchot’s cat.
On August 12, 1924 Pep was taken into custody at the Eastern State Penitentiary where he was given an identification number (C2559) and had his mugshot taken, just like all of the other prisoners. He settled in to serve his sentence: Life Without Parole.
…Or at least that’s how the story goes. But none of it was true.
In reality, a newspaper reporter eager to make an impression took way more than their fair share of creative liberty and made the whole thing up! Pep actually belonged to the Governor and was a gift from his relatives who bred Labs. Pep’s only true crime was murdering the Governor’s sofa cushions — but that story just didn’t sell papers! So they added a dash of murder…
Pep really did live out his life at Eastern State, but not as a prisoner. Instead, he served as a “mascot to the prisoners” according to Gov. Pinchot who was friends with the Warden and gave Pep to the prison as a companion for the prisoners (possibly laying the groundwork for today’s prison dog programs like Operation Second Chance).
The Governor felt that dogs could be therapeutic for inmates and thought Pep to be the perfect candidate. It worked like a charm, the prisoners immediately took to Pep and nicknamed him “Pep the Black”. A true Lifer, and a true Lab, the beloved Pep gave company and comfort to those in need for the rest of his days.