The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, has posted an open letter paying tribute to a late friend and fellow animal lover.
Meghan was formerly a royal patron of the Mayhew animal charity in the UK. She recently stepped away from her role following her departure from the UK.
She says she was introduced to the London-based charity, which works to “improve the lives of cats and dogs” by animal behaviorist Oli Juste. He previously appeared on the British TV show Puppy School on Channel 4.
Meghan became a patron for Mayhew in 2019. She says, “It was Oli and his fiancé Rob who helped care for my rescue dog, Guy, when I had just moved to the UK and he was recovering from a debilitating accident. They loved him as though he was their own.”
Juste died on January 15 this year. In a message on Instagram, his partner, Rob, said, “It’s with great sadness that Oli passed away on Saturday (15/01/22) with me his fiancé Rob, sister Helene, brother Michel and my mother Jenny by his side. He had been surrounded by friends and the incredible NHS staff at St.Richards Hospital ITU, Chichester.”
He added, “Oli was and remains an inspiration and thought changer within the worlds of both dogs and humans and his special connection with animals was evident.”
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Mayhew announced this week that it and Meghan had ended her patron role earlier this year by mutual agreement. In a tweet, it said it had been, “an incredible privilege for Mayhew to have worked closely with Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, since 2019.”
It also posted a link to the letter from Meghan.
You can read Meghan’s letter below.
“I was introduced to Mayhew by my dear friend, animal behaviorist, Oli Juste. We shared, amongst many things, a commitment to animal welfare, and a deep love of rescue dogs. In fact, it was Oli and his fiancé Rob who helped care for my rescue dog, Guy, when I had just moved to the UK and he was recovering from a debilitating accident. They loved him as though he was their own.
“It was nearly four years ago, as I was exploring possible organizations to volunteer with, that Oli brought me to Mayhew. He knew that beyond their adoption and rescue programs, their international work to keep animals safe, and their local work to find abandoned pets homes, that I would be drawn to their deep love of community, which transcended the animals themselves, and extended to the people around them. He was right. I fell in love with Mayhew, and soon became their Royal patron.
“As my three-year patronage to Mayhew came to a close earlier this year, I reflected on the work they have achieved in the hardest of times—during a global pandemic with minimal resources, safeguarding staff from their stations in Afghanistan, and still resolving to remain steadfast in their vital day to day work for animal and human welfare throughout London and across the globe.
“Every day there was another twist and turn, every week another update—which Oli and I would connect about: ‘What can we do? How can we do more? Look at the amazing work they continue to do.’
“On January 15, 2022, my beloved friend Oli tragically and very suddenly passed away. 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. 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.
“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. 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.
“To the Mayhew community, thank you for entrusting me as your patron. It has been an honor.
“As ever, Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex”
Howard Bridges, the charity’s chief executive, said, “Although we have mutually agreed to end the patronage, as a committed rescue pet parent, the Duchess will continue to support Mayhew and champion our ambitions.
“The Duchess has generously made a donation in memory of her much-loved friend Oli Juste, the well-known dog trainer and behaviorist, and we are naming a wing in his honor at our London rehoming center.”
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