When Upright Citizens Brigade Artistic Director Alex Berg traveled from Los Angeles back east to spend a few days with family and friends last week, he left his dog, a shy white Poodle mix named Tesla, in the care of a trusted dog walker.
But while Berg was out of town celebrating the holidays, he got the call every dog owner fears: Tesla was missing. The little dog had slipped out of her leash, and before the dog walker could grab hold of her, Tesla took off through L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood.
As Berg hurried home to look for Tesla, he knew he’d have to act fast if he was ever going to find her. After all, Los Angeles is a huge city, and Tesla could be anywhere. To give himself a head start, Berg contacted some of his L.A. friends and asked for their help.
“I emailed a few dozen friends of mine to let them know what had happened, and they all picked up the charge right away,” Berg told LAist.com.
Using a little elbow grease and updates on a Twitter feed, #FindTesla, Berg’s friends took to the streets of Los Angeles hoping for any sign of the Poodle mix. The search party exchanged Google Maps posts to alert others of possible sightings and searched neighborhoods. A group calling themselves the “Dawn Guard” even followed leads in the early morning hours, combing every nook and cranny of the city for Berg’s missing pooch.
Upright Citizens Brigade actress and friend of Berg’s, Tamar Stevens, spent hours scouring L.A. for signs of Tesla. She, like others, was inspired by the growing search.
“It doesn’t just feel like Alex’s dog, it feels like our dog,” Stevens told the Los Angeles Times.
What had started as one man contacting a few buddies to help search for his missing dog suddenly turned into a grassroots rescue operation, with more than 100 people mobilizing in the mission to bring little Tesla back home again.
A few familiar faces joined in the efforts; singer-songwriter Ryan Adams, actor Jerry Ferrara, NFL Network journalist Rich Eisen, and actor-comedian Jeff Garlin retweeted Berg’s call for help, turning #FindTesla into a full-blown movement.
“From the beginning, the response has been overwhelming,” Berg said gratefully.
Complete strangers turned up to canvas the L.A. streets with Berg, including John Roiniotis, who spent several days pounding the pavement in Los Feliz and his own Miracle Mile neighborhood.
“I’ve got a dog back in Chicago, and I know how it would feel if she was lost,” Rioniotis told the Los Angeles Times.
Though they weren’t having any luck finding Tesla, the #FindTesla team was so efficient in their search tactics that, with the help of rescue organization the Bill Foundation, they were able to reunite three missing dogs with their worried owners, including another white Poodle named Snow.
Sadly, the search for Tesla ended in tragedy. Tesla, the little dog who united a community, was found dead several days ago. It is not yet known how she passed. On January 5, Berg took to his Twitter account to break the awful news.
“R.I.P. Tesla 6/10/10 – 1/4/13. You were loved, and you will be missed,” @ActuallyBerg tweeted, heartbroken.
Today, the search for Tesla is over, but no one will forget the way so many people came together for a single cause—to bring one lost dog home again.
“Our hearts mourn the loss of Tesla and our thoughts and prayers are with Alex and the community that came together to search for her,” a Bill Foundation representative posted on the organization’s Facebook page. Despite the sad outcome of the search, the foundation is as impressed and grateful as Alex Berg that the Los Angeles community and beyond banded together for Tesla.
“So many people around the world gave their time and support over the last week and did everything possible to find her. This is one of those sad stories where no one did anything wrong, and so many people stepped up to do things right,” the Facebook post reads.
Berg is hopeful that the #FindTesla movement will continue on in his late dog’s name, and that the Los Angeles community will remain united in the effort to bring other missing pets home again.
“It’s so sad,” says Berg’s friend Drew DiFonzo Marks, “but the effect of it is so heartwarming. Tesla kind of becomes a symbol for something better now.”