Video: L.A. woman recalls terrifying ride on car hood after bulldog stolen

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Ali Zacharias recalled desperately clinging to the hood of the getaway car as it sped through downtown Los Angeles. Inside the vehicle was the thieves’ precious cargo: Onyx, her French bulldog and “buddy.”

Zacharias said her only thought was, “I’m not leaving this car. … I held on to the windshield wipers, thinking they wouldn’t drive if I was on the car.”

They did.

“Before I know it, we’re going like 40 miles per hour,” she said. She rode atop the hood for a short way before the car swerved and she rolled off. She was bruised and cut but not badly hurt, she said in an interview with The Times on Sunday.

But as Zacharias stood watching the car disappear, she felt bereft. Onyx was gone.

A dog plays with a small toy.

Onyx, a French bulldog with one blue eye and one green eye, was stolen from his owner in downtown L.A. on Jan. 18.

(Ali Zacharias)

The terrifying scene was caught on video, which was later posted on Instagram and has since gone viral.

Since the Jan. 18 incident, Zacharias has been victimized a second time, by a scammer playing on her desperation to find Onyx. The individual led her on a “goose chase” Sunday to extract $50 — for “gas money,” the person claimed — she told The Times.

Los Angeles police are investigating the incident but could not be reached for comment Sunday.

French bulldogs are one of the most popular small-breed dogs in the world, according to the American Kennel Club, “especially among city dwellers.” They’re known for their square heads, “bat” ears and charming disposition. Expensive and in high demand, the dogs have been a favorite target of thieves in recent years in the L.A. area.

Two of Lady Gaga’s French bulldogs were stolen in February 2021, and her dog walker was shot and wounded during the heist. The woman who recovered them and later sued — trying to claim the $500,000 reward — was found to be involved with the dognappers. More recently, thieves stole 12 purebred French bulldogs, including a 10-month-old show dog named Roll X, from a Gardena pet shop.

Zacharis’ heartbreak began when the West Hollywood woman, who says she manufactures clothes, was on a lunch break with Onyx at a Whole Foods in downtown Los Angeles on Grand Avenue near 8th Street. Onlookers were watching the 44-year-old interact with her dog. The black-and-white-speckled French bulldog is a little over a year old and has different colored eyes, the left blue and the right green.

“They were watching me feed him meatballs and white fish. … I spoil him.”

He ducked under the table where she was sitting; she let him go as he explored. The next thing she knew, she said, a woman had picked up Onyx and was walking away with him.

Onyx is a little over a year old.

Onyx is a little over a year old.

(Ali Zacharias)

“I thought it was a misunderstanding,” Zacharias said, so she followed, calling out to the woman, who got into a white Kia Forte. And still, she “didn’t punch into the fact that my dog was stolen. … I wasn’t in that mode.”

So she attempted to follow the woman into the car, which held four people, before being pushed out. They locked the door. Zacharias said she realized they were “about to drive off with my dog, so I stood in front of the car, and I was holding my hands up, like, ‘Stop, do not go,’ and they drove into me and I fell onto the hood.”

When she tried to describe to loved ones what had happened, they weren’t able to appreciate it, she said — until Saturday, when she said she became aware of video circulating on social media that showed those terrifying moments on the hood of the car.

“I get wind of this video on Instagram, and it changed my whole world,” she said, “because I had felt completely alone.”

The video, taken by witness Harrison Pessy, has drawn a lot of interest from news outlets and social media channels, and Zacharias said she hoped that would help police solve the case.

“I hope the next story about this is a reunification story.”

A poster says "Stolen Dog! Big Reward!"

A poster promising a reward has been circulated in the theft of a French bulldog in downtown L.A. on Jan. 18.

(Ali Zacharias)

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