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NILES, Ill. – A suburban man who touched the lives of thousands of people and animals during a remarkable four-decade career as a veterinarian has died of COVID-19.

Peter Sakas, 67, was a legend in the field. He literally wrote the book of avian medicine.

“He’s literally Dr. Doolittle,” said friend John Garrido. “He had a way with animals. Even animals that would normally have to be muzzled with other vets, somehow they just knew he was here to help.”

A graduate of Niles West High School, Northwestern, Auburn and U of I’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Sakas made his home at the Niles Animal Hospital. Flowers, balloons and a statue of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, were sent by loved ones to the hospital on Wednesday.

“I’ve never met a human being, or a vet who had the passion that he has. He would come in and we had some abuse case that were in really bad shape,” Garrido said. “He would come back a t 9 o’clock to feed them take them for a walk give them the medication they need.”

Garrido, one of Sakas’ best friends, said he loved rock and roll. When an abused dog came in for treatment, Sakas had the perfect name; Freddie, for Freddie Mercury.

Sakas fell ill and passed away from COVID-19.

“People we love are dying from this virus.” said Garrido. “It’s insidious, They’ll be in the hospital and think they’re getting better and then all of a sudden it takes them.”