The note came two weeks after the death of Debbie Pettigrew's ailing 12-year-old Cavalier Spaniel.
It was a simple card with a picture of a dog on the front. But inside, the handwritten message from veterinarian Dermot Foran is something Pettigrew says she'll never forget.
"He sent me a very nice note saying he understood how hard it was, but that as time passed we would be able to look back and see the happiness our dog brought us and that would give us some comfort," recalled Pettigrew, softly crying as she remembered the doctor's words.
"I don't know many vets who could take the time [to do this]," said Pettigrew, of Mars, whose last contact with the doctor was that note sent in 2002.
The handwritten sympathy cards show the kind of man Dr. Dermot J. Foran was, former clients say. He was a soft-spoken animal lover, proud of his Irish heritage; a father of three who loved riding the Tea Cups at Disney World.
Foran, a partner in the Wexford Veterinary Hospital, died Aug. 11, a day after he was injured in a bicycle accident. The McCandless resident was 36.
His love for animals started early in his hometown of Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland. Foran grew up on his parents' dairy farm, surrounded by cattle and thoroughbred horses.
He came to McCandless in 1991 for an externship at the Wexford Veterinary Hospital.
That's when he met and fell in love with Pamela, said Donna Castor, a family friend.
"Seeing them together the Lord knew what he was doing," said Castor, of Bradfordwoods. "She was a redhead and he was a redhead; they just looked like they were meant to be together."
Castor recalls Pamela taking the young Irish man to Kennywood on their first date.
"He had never been on a roller coaster before," Castor recalls Pamela telling her.
Foran returned to Ireland after the externship ended, but continued to communicate with Pamela through letters.
He returned and later the couple married in 1995.
Foran was so excited about his new life, his new family, that he would bring out pictures during clinic visits, said client Cindy Hamler of Cranberry.
"He had very bright red hair and a distinct Ireland accent," she recalled. "Oh, my, I just loved to hear him talk."
Like Pettigrew, the Hamlers received a sympathy note following the death of their cat.
"It makes you feel so good to know that they got attached to their animals as much as you did," she said.
Hamler and her husband would take their cats to the new doctor and continued to until they moved away in 2002.
"He went out of his way to help people," said sister-in-law Wendy Petrakos. "I can't tell you how many people tell me he went to their house to put their dog down."
And it wasn't uncommon to find Foran rushing out late at night to take care of an animal, she said.
Besides working with animals, Foran was an avid cyclist, a church volunteer, and a family man who took the kids to the park and built them a swing set out back.
"I have just been so proud to know him," Petrakos said. "He was an example for all of us. He was someone who lived life to the fullest."
Survivors include his wife, Pamela; daughters Aislinn and Fiona; son Kenneth; and parents Elaine and Eamon Foran of Ireland.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be said at 10 a.m. tomorrow in St. John Neumann Church.
The family suggests contributions be sent to Citizens National Bank, 11361 Perry Highway, Wexford, PA 15090, designated for St. John Neumann Church or the University College Dublin.
Jacqueline Shoyeb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.