By Linda Thompson
July 11 will be a special day for Dexter, the namesake of Dexter's Deli Health Food for Dogs and Cats. Store owner Tori Rosay will mark her dog's 17th birthday by inviting customers to a 2 to 4 p.m. extravaganza at 1229 Camino del Mar. Invitations were included in the company's 3,000 member newsletter distribution.
Rosay said the celebration is "a testament" to the store's mission of providing healthful whole foods, raw foods, and supplements to dogs and cats.
"Dexter is the pioneer for fresh food diets for pets," Rosay said.
After 14 years in business, Dexter has a big following and is somewhat of a celebrity in Del Mar. People and their canines walk by to see him at the store.
As a mere pooch at a dog pound, Dexter had no idea that one day he would gain celebrity status and be part of a business. Rosay dubbed him "a two-time pound rescue" as Dexter was in the pound for a second time when she found him.
Rosay had already decided to name her dog Dexter before she went looking for a pet. The mixed Boston terrier she found at the pound was the dog that fit her image of Dexter.
She attributes her business growth to people's awareness of the importance of their pets eating nutritious foods. Rosay said "it was not my dream" to own three pet supply stores, but the company grew to meet her customers' needs. Dexter's Deli is the biggest pet health food store in San Diego, according to Rosay, and her customers drive from all over the county to buy healthful pet food. Five years ago, Dexter's Deli opened a location in Carlsbad, and the San Marcos store is now 8 months old.
Dexter's Deli has 15 employees — all permitted to bring their pets to work. Christine, the deli's bookkeeper, has worked with Rosay for 12 years. She said the ability to bring her two dogs to work weighed in value as much as receiving health benefits.
The deli started as experiments in Rosay's kitchen. She applied her knowledge from the nutrition business to recipes for pets.
She became motivated to make her own pet foods after reading books about the origins of processed pet food. She said she was concerned about the lack of nutritional value in food for animals, since the food came from by-products of human food.
Although processed pet foods are inexpensive, Rosay questions if inexpensive pet food is really a benefit if it causes illnesses. She sees it as a penny-wise, pound-foolish cycle because pet owners will eventually spend more money on veterinary bills to treat illnesses.
Rosay now works with a local baker to make doggie cakes and treats. One such item is carrot cake with peanut-butter icing. It contains no white flour. She said that people eat the cakes all the time and "prefer them because they are not all that sweet."
Rosay explained that Dexter's birthday is actually July 15, but she did not want to wait another week for the party ... just in case.
Dexter is not immune from the aging process. He has the usual visual and hearing impairments that accompany "old age."
"Dexter is pretty deaf," Rosay said, "but he can see where the treats land for sure."