Meghan Markle Shares 'Heartbreak' Over Sudden Death of Friend Who Cared for Her Dog When She Moved to U.K.

The emotional note came in a message for the animal welfare charity, Mayhew, following the announcement that she is no longer their patron

Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle. Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty

Meghan Markle recently said goodbye to a "beloved friend" who shared her passion for animals.

In a message posted on the website for Mayhew, an animal welfare charity that Meghan selected as one of the four organizations she would support as a royal patron back in 2019, Meghan said that she was introduced to the charity by animal behavioralist Oli Juste, who "tragically and very suddenly passed away" in January.

"It has left me, and so many others, heartbroken and reflective — knowing that the legacy he leaves for our furry friends is beautifully simple: just love them," the Duchess of Sussex, 40, wrote. "Especially those left behind or forgotten. In his memory, we will be creating the Oli Juste wing at Mayhew, to shelter the animals who may have a harder time finding their forever homes. Because much like Oli, they will never be forgotten, and they will always be loved."

Meghan also shared that Oli and his fiancé, Rob, "helped care for my rescue dog, Guy, when I had just moved to the U.K. and he was recovering from a debilitating accident. They loved him as though he was their own."

Meghan, who shares two dogs with Prince Harry, said she "fell in love" with Mayhew after Oli introduced the organization to her while she was exploring organizations to volunteer with. She became their royal patron in Jan. 2019, making animal welfare one of the key causes she would champion in her royal life.

Meghan Markle animal charity
Meghan Markle meets a Jack Russell named "Maggi" during her visit to the animal welfare charity Mayhew in London on January 16, 2019.

Although she continued to support Mayhew after she and Prince Harry stepped back from their roles as working royals and moved to California in 2020, Meghan and Mayhew announced Wednesday that she is no longer a patron of the organization.

"Our Royal Patronage with The Duchess of Sussex came to an end at the beginning of the year. It's been an incredible privilege for Mayhew to have worked closely with Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, since 2019 when she became our Patron," Mayhew said in a statement.

"Though my time as patron of Mayhew has come to a close, my unwavering support has not. I encourage each of you to support in whatever way you are able," Meghan wrote in her message. "The emotional support of a rescue animal is unparalleled — as you'll soon realize: it is not you who saves them, it is they who save you."

Meghan visited the organization in 2019 while pregnant with son Archie and was memorably very taken with one of the dogs: a Jack Russell named Minnie.

"We can't take another dog before the baby as our hands are too full!" Meghan said.

The Duchess of Sussex secretly visited Mayhew during a Jan. 2020 visit to London and also wrote the forward for the organization's annual review that year.

She concluded her forward by revealing that she has sponsored a dog kennel in her son Archie's name.

"As an expression of my own commitment, I renewed my sponsorship of a dog kennel in the name of our son, Archie, to create an interim home for a pet in need," she said. "I hope you will show them your support in whatever ways you can. When you do, you will be contributing not just to animal welfare but to the shared welfare of us all."

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Meghan also chose to share the family's 2020 Christmas card via Mayhew. The card showed an illustration of a family photo taken by Meghan's mom, Doria Ragland, featuring Prince Harry, Archie and their two family dogs, Pula and Guy.

A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said, "The small Christmas tree, including the homemade ornaments and other decorations, were selected by Archie, and the tree will be replanted after the holidays."

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