'No one should lose their best friend': Twinsburg boy, 12, sells dog treats for charity after dad's death

April Helms
Akron Beacon Journal
Alex Salzinger, 12, his mother, Laura Fox, and their dog, Aura, at their home in Twinsburg. Alex has started making gourmet organic dog treats and will give a percentage of the sales to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. His father died from complications from colon cancer last summer.

A 12-year-old Twinsburg boy is working to turn a personal tragedy into a mission to help others.

Alex Salzinger recently started making homemade dog treats and selling them to raise money for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Alex is doing this in memory of his father, Michael, who died in July from complications due to colon cancer at age 48.

Aura's Treats, the name of the fledgling dog treat operation, are being carried by Master Crafter DIY, 9700 Ravenna Road in Twinsburg. 

He sold 25 packs of the dog treats during a live show at Master Crafter last month.

"We just started and were so touched by the response," said Alex's mother, Laura Fox. "The treats are homemade organic with a lot of love and peanut butter. Alex hopes that by raising money and creating awareness that someone else’s parent will be saved from colon cancer.

"His father was his best friend, and no one should lose their best friend."

The treats are named for their 3-year-old dog, who they adopted shortly after Fox's husband died, she said.

“When I'm having some bad days, she always cheers me up when I play with her,”  Alex Salzinger said of his dog, Aura.

"When I'm having some bad days, she always cheers me up when I play with her," said Alex, who goes to Dodge Intermediate School. "She does some funny things, too. Once I saw her jump all the way down the stairs. It was like she was flying."

Aura, a mixed breed dog, even served as an initial taste tester, he said.

Alex Salzinger watches as Aura gobbles up one of the dog treats named for her.

"When we gave her some, her eyes just lit up," Alex said.

Initially, Alex sold T-shirts to raise funds to benefit the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. But when sales started to taper off, he decided to try his hand at making the dog treats.

"We found this recipe online, and we changed it, made it ours," Alex said. "We molded it into our own recipe. We used the items we had on hand. Our neighbors told us about Master Crafters. We got in touch with the place, and they agreed to carry them."

Alex said that running a business has been a learning experience. After the live show with Master Crafter DIY, he and his mother had a lot of baking to do.

"I learned I cannot make more than 25 dog treats a day," Alex said. "We stayed up until 10:30, and that's really late for our family. We baked for three or four hours. There was so much baking. It was tough, but I'm glad we persevered through it."

Fox added that she has since purchased more molds for the treats, which should make the process smoother.

Alex said that he initially thought this enterprise would take "just a little bit of money and a little bit of material."

"But it's a huge thing," Alex said.

However, Alex said he enjoyed the time he was spending with his family on this and other projects.

"It's brought a lot of my family together too, in a very good way," he said. "I'm doing more things with mom. We've been doing more art projects and stuff, having a really good time with trying new things. I'm proud of my family for really persevering, and making sure this business is a success. I hope colon cancer gets solved. I hope people get tested. If Dad had gotten tested earlier, it could have saved his life."

Alex said he had many fond memories of his father.

"He was like the main guy I liked to play sports with," he said. "He would toss a baseball with me. We'd play basketball. He was always telling me about life, usually when we were driving to the Twinsburg Recreation Center, about problems we might face, and how he persevered through life. We watched basketball and football. It was fun, the time we had together."

A percentage of the sales of these organic dog treats will go to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

Fox said the treats are $6 for a pack of four.

"We have a new mold from the treat maker so we are including four now," she said. "I put together a gift bag as well that is $20 and includes two packs of treats, a knot toy and a pack of Earth-friendly poop bags."

Alex is donating 15% of the profits to Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

For details, visit Aura's Dog Treats on Facebook. In addition, the family has another Facebook page, Michael's Friends Care Fundraiser for Colorectal Cancer Alliance, for donations.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com

Laura Fox, left, her son, Alex Salzinger, 12, and their dog, Aura, at their Twinsburg home.