Meghan Markle at Mayhew
Meghan Markle, seen here during a visit to Mayhew animal charity centre in London, has sent a video message to mark the opening of the Oli Juste Wing on Feb. 21, 2024. Photo:

Meghan Markle paid tribute to her late friend, dog trainer Oli Juste, with a personal video message played during the opening of a new dog rescue wing named in his honour at London's Mayhew animal charity.

The recording was played to guests during the unveiling of The Oli Juste Wing at Mayhew's centre in North West London on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Those in attendance included actors Nigel Harman, Rula Lenska, Beatie Edney and Laura Aikman, as well as key figures including the Mayor of Brent and the Chair of the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes.

The Duchess of Sussex said in her message posted on the charity's website: "A heartfelt thank you to the wonderful team at Mayhew who have worked tirelessly to bring this dream to life."

She added: "It was so important to find a way to celebrate Oli's memory in a manner that he would have loved. Mayhew is a beacon of hope for those in need and a shining example of what can be achieved when we work together."

Juste died suddenly in January 2022 and Mayhew said Meghan Markle made a generous donation through her Archewell Foundation "to help continue his legacy". The new wing offers "refurbished kennels providing warmth, safety and shelter for the dogs that come into Mayhew's care".

Chief Executive of Mayhew, Sherine Wheeler, said in a statement; "We are so delighted to celebrate and honour Oli's life in this way, we are so grateful for his friendship and contribution to Mayhew. He combined his expertise as a renowned dog trainer with a passion for animal welfare to make a huge difference for rescue dogs.

"Thanks to the generosity of the Duchess of Sussex, our former Royal Patron, we have been able to make key improvements to our spaces for dogs in our care and create a comfortable and stimulating environment for them; a fitting legacy for Oli's dedication to improving the lives of dogs."

The Duchess of Sussex first learned about Mayhew in 2019 through Juste. Throughout their friendship, the two bonded over their commitment to animal welfare and a love of rescue dogs. According to the charity, the duchess' donation made it possible to improve the dog run and garden, which provides an "enriching experience for rescued dogs while they are waiting to be rehomed".

Meghan Markle was patron of Mayhew for three years. Juste and his fiancé Rob took care of her beagle named Guy, when she moved to the U.K. and the pup was recovering from an accident.