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Meghan Markle reveals her unexpected 'support' during turbulent year - exclusive

The Duchess of Sussex is patron of animal charity Mayhew

Danielle Stacey

The Duchess of Sussex might be settled in her new life in Santa Barbara, but she still regularly checks in with her royal patronages, including animal charity Mayhew

Meghan, 39, has long been an advocate for the welfare of animals and owns two rescue dogs, a beagle named Guy and a black labrador called Pula. 

Mayhew's CEO Caroline Yates tells HELLO!: "Whenever we talk to the Duchess about the charity, she always references how important her dogs are and what a support they are, particularly during everything that's happened this year, with COVID, and with the personal trials and tribulations she went through this year."

READ: 10 royals and the adorable pets they share their homes with

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WATCH: Meghan's dogs Guy and Pula make cute cameo during Q&A with Gloria Steinem 

Caroline added: "It was really nice to share our experiences with her about how important animals are when things are tough and what a comfort they can be.

"That's what Mayhew is all about, that's what we want to try and encourage, we want to try to promote the human-animal bond and what a great source of comfort and stimulation, and joy pet ownership can be."

The animal charity was given the honour of sharing Prince Harry and Meghan's stunning Christmas card photo in December 2020 on their social media channels, which featured an artistic rendering of the couple with their son Archie and their pet dogs, Guy and Pula, as they played in the garden of their Montecito home.

Caroline reveals charity was "really thrilled" to be chosen to share the Sussexes' 2020 Christmas card.

"We had no idea what it would look like before we got the photo, and when we saw it, we thought, 'Oh wow!' It's very family-oriented, it was really lovely," she tells HELLO!.

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The Sussexes' 2020 Christmas card was shared by Mayhew

The Duchess became patron of the Mayhew in January 2019, announcing it as one of her four royal patronages, alongside Smart Works, The National Theatre and The Association of Commonwealth Universities.

Caroline says the patronage was a "total surprise" for the charity after Meghan carried out private visits to their animal home in Kensal Green, North London at the end of 2018.

She tells HELLO!: "It just came across that the Duchess wanted to be involved with some real grassroot organisations.

"I think what struck her about Mayhew is our work with communities. 

"We work with marginalised groups in society, we work with the homeless, we work with elderly people who are struggling to look after their pets and their home and we work with a lot of people who have mental health conditions that need support and guidance, but get so much from their pets, so we try and ensure that they stay together, but without compromising the welfare of the animal. 

"I think that's what she found attractive and interesting."

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Meghan was enamoured with a dog named Minnie during a visit to Mayhew in 2019

While Mayhew's event fundraising has been hit during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, the charity has found ways to adapt its services, including hosting a virtual Christmas carol concert with a host of celebrity supporters and taking its TheraPaws programme online.

Caroline tells HELLO! that Meghan receives regular updates from Mayhew and is particularly interested in TheraPaws, an animal assisted intervention programme, which has been designed to promote physical, social and emotional wellbeing.

Mayhew's volunteers take dogs into hospitals, mental health centres, SEN schools, care homes and hospices to help improve the quality of life for those interacting with the animal.

"We have had some really lovely stories about how it brings joy, and people who haven't spoken for months will start talking about a pet they once had," Caroline tells HELLO!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Mayhew 🐶🐱 (@themayhew)

Meghan during one of her private visits to Mayhew

The charity began conducting virtual TheraPaws sessions in the wake of the pandemic.

Caroline says: "It was quite amazing, I don't think the dogs really understood what was going on, but the patients and the venues loved it. 

"We did the calls over Zoom and the dogs got lots of treats to keep them looking at the camera."

While Prince Harry is yet to accompany Meghan on one of her visits to Mayhew, Caroline met the Duke at a Buckingham Palace garden party in 2019, where he spoke about how they were preparing the dogs for the arrival of baby Archie.

And from the looks of the Christmas card photo, it seems the one-year-old shares a sweet bond with Guy and Pula!

It was revealed last year that the Duchess had renewed the sponsorship of a dog kennel at Mayhew in Archie's name.

For more information about Mayhew's work, visit themayhew.org

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