Kate Middleton and Prince William have spoken of their heartbreak after their beloved dog Lupo died.
The couple posted the sad news on their official Instagram page, Kensington Royal, The Sun reports.
In the caption, the couple wrote: “Very sadly last weekend our dear dog, Lupo, passed away. He has been at the heart of our family for the past nine years and we will miss him so much. – W & C.”
The English cocker spaniel has often appeared in photos alongside the family, and in particular with Prince George.
He was bred from a dog owned by Kate’s parents Michael and Carole Middleton and given to the Duke and Duchess as an early Christmas present in 2011.
Lupo was so important to the family that Prince William referenced the pet in his first official interview after becoming a father in 2013.
He said: “For me, Catherine, and now little George, are my priorities. And Lupo.
“He’s coping all right, actually.
“As a lot of people know who have got dogs and are bringing a newborn back, they take a little bit of time to adapt, but no, he’s been all right so far.”
Lupo even helped the couple choose George’s name, according to reports.
Kate and William scattered pieces of paper with various names on the floor, and the dog stopped when he reached ‘George’, it’s claimed.
Following the little boy’s birth, Lupo featured in one of the first official photographs.
He later appeared in a family portrait of the Duke and Duchess with their son in 2014.
The name Lupo is from the Italian word for wolf – and it was reported that Kate named the pet after the family of her paternal great-grandfather, Olive Christiana Middleton nee Lupton.
After photos of the little dog were shared for the first time, dog-loving royal watchers were immediately enamoured – and breeders credit him with fuelling a huge surge in numbers of people looking for cocker spaniel puppies.
Tatler even named the pet the 50th most fascinating person in Britain in 2013.
Earlier this year, the Duchess joked about Lupo while visiting Savannah House, a facility run by social justice charity Extern.
As she played ping pong, the smiling royal said: “We try to do this at home but our dog keeps catching the ping pong balls.”
Thousands of people – including actor Jennifer Garner – have already shared their condolences with the family.
One wrote: “So sorry for your loss … animals are not pets, they become family,” while another said: “Rest in peace lovely Lupo.”
Kate’s brother James has also paid tribute to the dog, writing on Instagram: “Nothing can ever prepare you for the loss of a dog.
“For those who have never had a dog, it might be hard to understand the loss.
“However for those who have loved a dog know the truth: A dog is not just a pet; it is a member of the family, a best friend, a loyal companion, a teacher and a therapist.”
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission