Just days after confirming the exciting news of his engagement to Alizee Thevenet, Duchess Catherine's younger brother James Middleton has taken to Instagram to share an emotional tribute to a very special soul – one of his dogs, Ella.
To mark World Mental Health Day, James shared a beautiful photo of his black Cocker Spaniel accompanied by a touching caption, explaining how she had helped him through some of his darkest times.
"This is Ella & these are the eyes which helped me get through the insufferable darkness," James writes.
"The gentle touch of your wet nose and loving lick was enough to make me feel brave. I will forever be in your debt. Thank you Ella."
The post is not the first time James has credited his dogs – he's the proud owner of five – for helping him through his struggles with mental illness, something he has also been incredibly open about.
In an Instagram post in March, James shared a sweet photo of him and one of his Cocker Spaniels, writing: "I've been in that angst of loneliness where you're really alone in the universe.
"Luckily for me I had my dogs 🐾🐾."
The 32-year-old, who is also an ambassador for Pets As Therapy, also wrote about how his five pups had positively impacted him throughout his personal struggle with depression, dyslexia and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) in an open letter about his mental health for The Daily Mail in January.
"I recognise, too, the role of my dogs – Ella, Inca, Luna, Zulu and Mabel – have played in my recovery," James wrote.
"Ella, particularly, has been my constant companion for ten years and she's been with me to all my therapy sessions, In her own particular way, she has kept me going.
"As a result, Ella and I now volunteer with the Pets As Therapy charity and Ella is a fully-fledged therapy dog for PAT."
The youngest Middleton explained he had felt compelled to openly talk about his struggles because it was what his brother-in-law Prince William and sister Catherine were advocating through their mental health campaign, Heads Together – to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health.
"They believe we can only tackle the stigma associated with mental illness if we have the courage to change the national conversation, to expel its negative associations," he wrote.
"So it wouldn't be honest to suppress my story. I want to speak out and they are my motivation for doing so."
He also acknowledged that he has had a richly blessed and privileged life, but that this does not make you immune to depression.
"It is tricky to describe the condition. It is not merely sadness. It is an illness, a cancer of the mind."
Helping James cope through rough times is not the only role his precious pups have played though.
According to The Daily Mail, it was thanks to Ella that James and his fiancée Alizee met, when Alizee stopped to give Ella a pat.
The pair reportedly started dating last year and moved in together in West London last month, before announcing their engagement this week.
"She said OUI," James captioned an Instagram post, which showed a gorgeous selfie of the two of them at England's Lake District, with a sapphire ring visible on Alizee's ring finger.
The happy news comes just days after the Duke and Duchess of York's eldest daughter Princess Beatrice announced her engagement to property investor Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, with their wedding set for 2020.
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