COVID-19 death of wildlife center veterinarian 'such a huge loss'
Countless animal lovers from around the Chicago area, along with family and friends, have been mourning the loss of Dr. Peter Sakas, a veterinarian who played a major role for the Barrington-based Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.
Sakas, 67, one of the country's top avian and exotic veterinarians and a staff veterinarian at the Animal Hospital and Bird Medical Center in Niles since 1983, died March 30 of COVID-19 infection, the Cook County medical examiner's office reported.
Flint Creek founder Dawn Keller called Sakas 'absolutely irreplaceable' to her nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center.
Keller had been friends with Sakas for 30 years.
"He used to jab me a little, saying, 'Don't you need me as a vet for Flint Creek?,'" Keller said. "I said we have a vet and I didn't really take him seriously at first."
One day, however, Keller asked Sakas if he was really serious.
"He said he was," she said. "He said he was a vet for another wildlife rehabilitator and really missed doing it. So we made a switch and made him our main vet. And all I can say is that I could never have been any happier than with Dr. Sakas."
Flint Creek Wildlife treats all species of wild birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals excluding skunks, bats and raccoons.
"There are very few vets who know wildlife," Keller said. "Most are dog and cat vets. In my opinion, it can be very hard to find Dr. Sakas' level of expertise."
Sakas was a 1983 graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois.
The college included a lengthy 'in memoriam' to Sakas in its alumni news on April 1. Over the last two decades, he regularly traveled to Urbana to share his expertise with veterinary students.
He also lectured at veterinary colleges in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio.
Keller stressed how Sakas would go out of his way to help in any situation.
"His philosophy in terms of saving lives was so similar to mine," Keller said. "We were just so closely aligned on the philosophy of working super hard and not just deciding something was too much hard work. We saved so many really incredible tough cases together. I just had so much faith and trust in him.
"I enjoyed him so much as a person. For us, this is such a huge loss. I know it's a huge loss for everyone who knew him, dealt with him or used him as a vet."