Good food fuels an old Rockster

Zoe Ley’s ailing dog recovered in health after she devised her own recipes for his meals

The doorbell rings and The Rockster’s children Heartster and RJ race to beat dad to the door. The youngsters win, but not by as much as you would expect from six-month-old puppies pitted against their 17-year-old father.

“In fact we’re not sure of The Rockster’s age, the vet estimates it to be between 17 and 19,” says Zoe Ley, the owner of the three dogs. “Anyway, he has definitely beaten Charlie Chaplin as a late father.” And Mick Jagger, come to that. Chaplin and Jagger both became fathers again at 73, mere striplings compared to The Rockster who, if dog years counted, should have earned a telegram from the Queen by now.

“We decided to try for ‘pupsters’ because The Rockster has been such a rock for our family through our ups and downs that the thought of life without him is unbearable. We thought having his offspring would help. We were advised that at his age there was a 0.1 per cent chance of him having puppies but Rabbit, the mum, got pregnant on the first try,” says Ley.

The family ended up keeping two pupsters because Ley’s children, Balthazar, aged ten, and Clementine, aged eight, each have their favourite. Balthazar chose Heartster — named after a heart-shaped marking — and Clementine selected RJ (Rockster Junior).

The Rockster’s siring of four healthy puppies, born on August 31, last year is all the more remarkable given his start in life. Ley and her husband, Sven, spotted the crossbreed street dog close to death while they were on their honeymoon in Naples in 2004. They cut short their holiday and rescued the stray, naming him The Rockster, a combination of Rocky Agusta, a friend who was with them on that day, and monster, Ley’s name for her husband.

The Rockster has also had a company named after him, founded in 2015, that manufactures bio-organic dog food. “We hadn’t intended to found a company. When we first got The Rockster he’d refuse even ‘natural’ dog food unless he was really hungry then as he got older he grew increasingly fussy and started refusing all food. He was lethargic and would sleep a lot. He was no longer able to go upstairs or jump into the car,” says Ley.

“My godfather, John Vane, was a nobel laureate for medicine and when I was a child he’d taught me about the importance of good nutrition for good health so I started checking the ingredients listed on the dog food tins and was horrified to discover their poor quality.”

Ley was determined to reverse The Rockster’s decline by improving his diet. She consulted animal holistic nutritionists and devised recipes using certified bio-organic meat from animals free from exposure to growth hormones, antibiotics and steroids, and which included bioorganic “superfoods”. Ley found a manufacturer in Germany and tried the recipes out on The Rockster.

“He loved the food and that was our eureka moment. At the school gates and in the park people kept asking why The Rockster was suddenly so different. We said we’d just changed his diet and then we had people knocking on the door asking for the recipe,” says Ley.

Ley says they included the owners a two-year-old shar pei called King, whom vets had advised to be put down because he had kidney failure and could not eat. The owners tried The Rockster food, the dog began eating again and has since recovered.

At £4.95 a 410g can, The Rockster food is not cheap, so Ley is introducing smaller, 195g portions.

“It doesn’t have to be eaten every day for a dog to benefit,” she adds.

Another new line is super bone broth for dogs that is also suitable for children. Ley is also setting up The Rockster Foundation, which will donate money towards rescuing street dogs abroad.

For Ley, the proof of the food has been in the eating and its results, including The Rockster’s fatherhood. “He’s now realised that he’s permanently stuck with the two pupsters so is coming round. But we make sure that he knows that for us he is still the top dog.”