Meghan Markle Shares 'Heartbreak' Over Sudden Death of Friend

Meghan Markle is mourning the loss of her dear friend and fellow animal lover Oli Juste. In a message shared Wednesday, the Duchess of Sussex shared that Juste tragically and very suddenly passed away in January. Juste was an animal behavioralist who introduced Markle to Mayhew, an animal welfare charity that Meghan selected as one of the four organizations she would support as a royal patron back in 2019.

Mourning Juste's loss in a message shared on the charity's website, Markle wrote that Juste's passing "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 royal went on to reflect on the important role Juste played in her life, sharing that it was Juste and his fiancé 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." More than just caring for Gus, Juste also introduced Markle to Mayhew just as she was beginning to explore various organizations to volunteer with.

"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," she wrote. "I fell in love with Mayhew, and soon became their Royal patron."

Markle, who shares two dogs with Prince Harry, became Mayhew's royal patron in Jan. 2019, officially making animal welfare a key cause she championed during her time as a senior royal. Amid her and Harry's decision to step back as working royals, Markle shared Wednesday that she is no longer a patron of the organization, announcing that her "three-year patronage to Mayhew came to a close earlier this year." Markle said the organization still has her "unwavering support."

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Amid Juste's passing, Markle announced that 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." She also encouraged others 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."