Meghan Markle has shared an open letter, addressing her “heartbreak” following the death of a close friend who introduced her to the animal shelter that she was formerly a patron of.
In a letter shared exclusively with The Independentthe Duchess of Sussex says she was introduced to the animal welfare charity Mayhew by her “dear friend” and animal behaviourist Oli Juste which led to her becoming the charity’s first patron in 2019.
Mayhew is a London-based charity that works internationally to “improve the lives of cats and dogs” from its home in Kensal Green.
Juste was a dog trainer and behaviourist who appeared on Puppy School on Channel 4.
“We shared, amongst many things, a commitment to animal welfare, and a deep love of rescue dogs,” Meghan writes, of her friendship with Juste. “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.
Meghan adopted a rescue beagle named Guy while she was living in Toronto. She later adopted Pula the labrador with Prince Harry. Both dogs live with the couple in their home in Montecito, California.
Juste died on 15 January this year. In a post to his Instagram page, his fiancé Rob wrote: “It’s with great sadness that Oli passed away on Saturday (01/15/22) 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.”
Writing of her loss, Meghan said: “On 15 January, 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.”
Mayhew’s chief executive Howard Bridges said the Duchess has “generously made a donation in memory of her much-loved friend Oli Juste.”
After stepping back as senior working royals, Meghan and Harry have both passed on several patronages. Two of Meghan’s — the Royal National Theater and the Association of Commonwealth Universities — were recently given to the Duchess of Cornwall by the Queen.
“Although we have mutually agreed not to extend the patronage, as a committed rescue pet parent, The Duchess will continue to support Mayhew and champion our ambitions,” he added.
“Her enthusiasm for our mission has inspired many more people to support and donate to our charity to save dogs and cats from a life of cruelty and neglect, support local pet owners in crisis and find loving and forever homes for abandoned animals.”
During the pandemic the Duchess worked to support the charity from afar, writing the foreword for both the 2019 and 2020 Annual Reviews.
During her patronage she also championed Therapaws, the charity’s program to promote physical, social and emotional wellbeing in the communities where it operates.
Meghan Markle’s open letter tribute to Mayhew and late friend in full:
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 of him, 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 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 honour.
Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.