Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
North Portland — It was March 29, 1966 and The Righteous Brothers’ (You’re My) Soul And Inspiration was making its way to the top of the Billboard charts.
Also that day, Dr. Peter Davis was licensed as a veterinarian in the State of Oregon.
He would soon start working at the St. Johns Veterinary Clinic, which he eventually bought, and continued to practice small animal medicine for more than 50 years.
Dr. Davis died suddenly on Thursday, January 14, of natural causes. He was 80. He is survived by Karen Ross Davis, his wife of 17 years, and their two dogs, a black Labrador, and a little peekapoo. He also is survived by his daughter Julie Cook of SE Portland.
His passing was felt by countless North Portland families who have gone to him and his clinic to treat their pets for generations.
As Tara Killam wrote on Facebook, “I’ve been taking my animals to him since I was 4 years old. I am now 40. He’s always gone above and beyond.”
Or as Joe Morrell posted to Facebook, “This man has been like family since 1973, and will be deeply missed by the whole St. Johns Community.”
Lisabeth Brookes Miller has taken 14 pets to Dr. Davis over the years, as well as 3 foster kittens. She posted the original tribute to Dr. Davis on the St. Johns page on Facebook.
“We moved here in 1998 and he became our vet right away,” she said.
She’s been blown away by all the comments about Dr. Davis that folks have been shared on Facebook. She wants to take the shared posts and pictures and turn them into a memorial book for his family.
“Because just reading the comments in the St. John’s group, someone wrote, ‘I didn’t know he was a vet. I saw him at the library all the time.’ He was just such a great man,” she said. “And I did not know he was at the library all the time. I am at the library all the time, and I must have always missed him. So to hear a whole other side of him.”
“All the comments on there about stories like that are just really cool, it’s pretty incredible. And then how many of them would consider him a good friend, like us. And to have that many relationships, and remember that many people, and just be so genuine about it too,” Miller said.
“I mean, we really, truly know how special this was. And I almost cried for a whole week, because I don’t think we’ll ever have this again with anybody. So it’s really sad. I told Karen that… She goes, ‘I miss him so much, I just don’t know what to do.’ And I said, ‘Well, you guys were such a great team.’ I said, ‘Karen, besides my father, he was the best man I know.’ And I said, ‘I do have a brother too, but it goes Dad and Dr. Davis, for sure, in my life. Definitely.”
In an interview, Karen said that Dr. Davis, or Pete, was born in SE Portland and grew up in Lake Oswego. Growing up, he was fascinated by birds. He also grew up wanting to attend Oregon State University, but a scholarship sent him to Stanford and then he was off to Eastern Washington University for veterinary school.
It was at vet school that he met lifetime friends with whom he would go on fishing trips to Alaska or hunting trip in Montana or along the Snake River. She said he loved duck hunting at the Charlton Duck Club on Sauvie Island.
“Back in the day, in the ’90s going into the 2000s, he would ride his motorcycle all round town,” Miller said. “It was really cool just seeing him with his hair flowing, and riding his bike. It was fun to see that. Anytime you saw him at Fred Meyer, I’m sure people felt the same way I did, where they were just like, ‘Dr. Davis.’ And you just stop and just chat him up for a while.”
Karen said his clients were a second family to him. She said she’s heard from so many of them in the days and weeks since he died.
“I wish they knew how much he cared for them as well,” she said. “He didn’t see himself as ‘Dr. Davis,’ if you understand what I mean. He was a person and they were his friends, and some of them had been, their families had been going to him for generations. They meant so much to him.”
Lisabeth recalls a story from the early 2000s when she and her husband, AJ, had been taking their dog Sanchez to a cancer specialist recommended by Dr. Davis. They beat the cancer, but side effects from the radiation required daily visits for treatment to regrow Sanchez’s skin.
“And I remember one day just being really tired, and just overwhelmed with the whole process. … And all of a sudden the doors open, and Dr. Davis walked in. And I almost start crying, and I’m like, ‘What are you doing here?’ I was just so happy to see him,” she said.
“And he was like, ‘I was just riding through this side of town, and I was just thinking maybe you guys would be here.’ And he was like, ‘I’m so happy you are.’ And at that moment, I was like, ‘This guy is like a second dad to me. He’s just such a great man,” Miller said. “And AJ and I were both just so overwhelmed and so joyful. I mean, he didn’t even go to see Dr. Fred, he came there to see us. And he knew the process we were going through was really tough. That’s a great description of him, is just, he’ll just be there, he’ll just show up. He’s there for you no matter what, so he’s a cool guy.”
His wife Karen said that if Dr. Davis was your friend, he had your back.
“A lot of times if people were dealing with something financially or were in a bad way, he would barter with people, and just like sometimes chicken eggs or whatever,” she said. “He always made it work out, and I always loved that about him.”
Like many of us, COVID-19 restrictions had really impacted the practice. Karen said they had been close to selling the practice, even had a buyer lined up, when everything shut down in March 2020 and the deal was put on hold. She doesn’t know what is to come of the practice. She recently began working with someone helping to get medical records out to clients.
And due to COVID-19 restrictions, she hopes to have a memorial at a later date.
But even COVID didn’t stop Dr. Davis from helping his clients when they and their pets needed it.
“We had an emergency with our… We have a old Malamute who’s 16, and we’ve been using wraps for him when he has accidents at night,” Miller said. “And all of a sudden one day, Wednesday we woke up and there was just blood everywhere. He was bleeding so bad out his urine, and I was so scared, and he seemed extremely lethargic. And I called Dr. Davis twice. He answered, and he goes, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m at the clinic. Will you guys please come over?’ And I was just again, just like, ‘This guy, he’s just the best guy in the world. I love him so much.’ So I told AJ, ‘He’s there, let’s go see him.’ And Kenai doesn’t even really like Dr. Davis, so he was avoiding all eye contact with him. He was just like, ‘Oh, don’t look at me. I’m not here.’
“But he diagnosed him with a urinary infection and gave us Clavamox. And we stood out there and I just said, ‘I can’t believe you answered your phone. I’m just so incredibly grateful for you.’ And he said, ‘I have a VIP list, and it’s got a few people on it. And you two are two of them.’ And I said, ‘Thank you for putting us on that list. Thank you for everything, Dr. Davis. You’re just such a great man.’ And it was just a really great feeling in that moment. I did not know he was going to pass away the next day, but I felt like in that moment, AJ and I just really let him know how much he meant to us.”
Nathan is an award-winning freelance content marketing producer (words, video, audio, strategy). He also is an award-winning newspaper reporter. He has an MBA and a BA in Editorial Journalism. He is a past director of SEMpdx’s digital marketing conference, and past director on the Society of Professional Journalists’ executive committee. He has two great kids, likes to sail, ride his road bike, and make beer.