Dr. Peter Sakas, Beloved Avian Veterinarian, Passes Due to COVID-19 Complications


It is with a very heavy heart that I report that my favorite avian vet, mentor, and supporter, Dr. Peter Sakas, owner of Niles Animal Hospital, has died from complications of COVID-19.

His quiet demeanor and self-deprecating humor masked a deep-seated compassion and a heart of gold, as well as a kind and generous soul. He cared for many animals that would not otherwise have had a chance and treated gravely injured wildlife, including a red-tailed hawk I picked up.

He was always willing to work a patient into his schedule, respond to an email, or tell an awful joke. He cared deeply for his patients and was always willing to go the extra mile. He performed an oviductectomy on my favorite parakeet Regina Coeli, giving me a bit more time with her; he was there when I had to make difficult decisions about life-or-death matters, always giving me time to think things through and supporting me in my decisions about those life-or-death matters, which is always important for the owner of a companion animal, no matter how small.

His vast knowledge of animal care was hidden behind a quiet humility and a great sense of humor. We were necropsying a chicken one day, and he said, “Do you know what that is?” pointing to an organ. I said “No, I don’t.” And he responded, “Neither do I!” [It was the spleen. Of course he knew this!]

On another occasion I brought in my male Japanese quail Tweedledee and Tweedledum because they had foam in their droppings. I was concerned about parasites. The computers were down that day, and Dr. Sakas did a number of tests – CBC, fecal, gram stain – and nothing turned up, even after examining the foam under a microscope. He sent me home with antibiotics. Once I got home, I did a little online research and was quite amused to find that nature had duped him. As it turns out, male Japanese quail have a foam gland right above the cloaca. The foam aids in sperm motility. We had a good laugh over that one.

His generosity added greatly to my current body of knowledge as a chicken consultant: He let me shadow him in clinic; he reviewed my necropsy photos and notes; he cared for many of my own birds; he believed in me, supported me, respected me.

He was generous, kind, patient, soft-spoken, and so knowledgeable. The animals of Chicagoland are poorer for this loss. My condolences to his family and the staff of Niles Animal Hospital.

Dr. Sakas, you will be greatly, unimaginably missed.

Requiescat in pace.

If you have a favorite memory of Dr. Sakas, please leave it in the comments below.

 

The following is a letter from the family:

 

Dear Niles Animal Hospital family,
It is with completely shattered hearts that we give you the news that Dr. Peter Sakas, our father, has passed away unexpectedly. Though it was unexpected, he was comfortable in his final moments.
There are no words to describe how broken we feel, and you undoubtedly feel the same. Our father was truly one of a kind. His sister recently shared the story with us of why he decided to become a veterinarian. Believe it or not, our dad grew up wanting to become an architect and would frequently be found doodling pictures of his future buildings (a trait he held onto his entire life…he would constantly doodle when he was on the phone). He worked as a caddie over the summers and one day while walking home, he found a small injured bird on the sidewalk. He brought the bird home and was completely beside himself that he was unable to help it. That moment was the impetus for his decision to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. As people get older, they tend to become jaded, but our father’s big heart and compassion only seemed to grow since finding that small bird. His love and empathy knew no bounds. He truly believed all life is precious and that animals have souls. He practiced medicine in a manner that was testament to those beliefs. He frequently took on cases that others considered helpless and he would often double-book himself or come in to the clinic after hours to care for the animals, both pets and wildlife, he so dearly loved.
Our father would often tell us that he’s never worked a day in his life because he loved his job so much. He took great pride in being the voice for patients who could not speak and tell him their problems, but we also know that the people he could speak to (you, his clients) meant the world to him. Our entire lives have been filled with stories of his clients and their animal companions he has had the privilege of treating. He would tell us about the wonderful people who tolerated his “dad joke” style of humor and who even traveled from different states to come see him (We’ll never forget hearing about the turkey who came in a corvette from Wisconsin). So although we have not met many of you in person, you have felt like a part of our family for as long as we can remember and we can’t thank you enough for making him feel so loved. He told us that he was never going to retire, and we’re comforted to know he got to uphold that promise and do what he loved right up until the very end.
The hole that this has left in our hearts will never fully heal, but our father’s spirit lives on in the entire staff at Niles Animal Hospital. Our father said that he was an “excellent judge of character,” and we know firsthand that the team he has created is top-notch and will continue to carry out his legacy and way of practicing. We hope you can continue to trust Niles Animal Hospital with the care of your beloved companions.
Given the extremely unfortunate circumstances, we are unable to have a proper memorial service at this time. There will be a service for immediate family members, but we plan to have another service some time in the future where we can all come together and properly celebrate our father.
In the meantime, please feel free to share your favorite memory, story, or cheesy “dad joke” you have of our father on his personal Facebook page or the Niles Animal Hospital Facebook page. We will personally be reading each one and it would truly mean the world to know how our father has impacted your lives since we are unable to share these stories in person at this time.
If you would like to make a different kind of contribution, we would direct you to make a contribution to the University of Illinois Companion Animal Memorial Fund in our father’s name.
We cannot thank you enough for everything you all have done for our father over the years, and we hope to get the chance to properly celebrate our father with you all in the future. He was too big of a character to be contained by a physical body, and we look forward to hearing the stories you have to share and how he will continue to live on in all of our hearts.
Love,
Courtney, Christopher, and the entire Sakas family

 

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Victoria Valerga on April 1, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    So very sorry. What a nice obituary.

    Reply

  2. Helo Jennifer,

    I hope this finds you, as I’m not sure how online e-mail flows. I’m so sorry to here about your friend. It hits close to home, as I grew up in Niles and my brother still resides.

    My heart goes out to you and Dr. Peter’s family.

    Love and Light, Les

    Lesley Wexler

    aha! Inc. Design 847-367-9522 lesaha@comcast.net ahaincdesign.com

    Heart Above™ heartabove@comcast.net heartabove.net

    >

    Reply

  3. Posted by Jane del Greco on April 2, 2020 at 8:18 am

    I am so sorry for not only your loss, but everyone’s. A good man….

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Reply

  4. Posted by Cheryl P Schulz on April 2, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    i am so sorry to hear this sad news. My daughter Renee Schulz knew you from St Catherine LaBoure School and your Mom Karen and I went to grammar school (Bridge School) together. I felt so heartbroken to find out about this as I am a nurse and it hits home with me. My condolences to all of you. Cheryl Schulz (Meyer)

    Reply

  5. Hello all, I am so saddened at this news. Dr. Pete
    was a the most giving veterinarian I ever knew. He supported me with a letter outlining the safety and cautionary benefits of raising backyard chickens in my 2012-2013 efforts to legalize backyard chickens here in Arlington Heights. He also wrote the introduction to my book The Virgin Coop which tells the tale of the whole experience (BYC still banned here). He was also a lover of all kinds of music writing music reviews for various bands. Just a week ago I emailed him a talking BYC blues song of mine from the book. I share it with you all here in honor of Dr. Pete: https://robertrosewood.bandcamp.com/track/meet-arlington-heights-three-desperado-hens-scarlett-cantina-bella-rose

    God has blessed all who had the privilege of knowing Pete. I will miss him dearly.

    Matt Scallon
    Arlington Heights

    Reply

  6. Posted by Julie Engelman on June 7, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Peter Sakas was such a kind, gentle FUNNY man…..I was so surprisingly affected by his sudden passing. Jennifer, I couldn’t possibly add much to your perfect tribute….but some people are just rare, and good. He made me feel like my chickens were the most important thing he’d done all day, every time we came in. We all have a lot to learn from people like that. I feel privileged to have known him. I miss him already.

    Reply

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