Britain’s Prince William and wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, experienced some puppy love yesterday from German Shepherds destined to be police dogs before departing New Zealand with baby Prince George for the Australian leg of their three-week tour.
The couple, who included their own dog Lupo in an official family portrait released last month, fussed over the puppies and questioned their foster carers at Wellington’s Royal New Zealand Police College about the animals’ eating and exercise habits.
“Do they eat all your shoes?” Kate asked as she held a chewing pup.
They also walked about in the heart of the capital at the end of their 10-day stay in New Zealand, where they have attracted crowds in the tens of thousands, even in small regional towns such as Blenheim and Cambridge.
The numbers were down slightly in Wellington as the rain that has dogged their stay continued, with William commenting “Look at the sunshine!” when shown a picture of his father Prince Charles opening the police college in 1981.
Kate took shelter under a clear bubble umbrella to protect her navy skirt suit by New Zealand-born designer Rebecca Taylor, but was able to set it aside when the gray skies cleared briefly as they made their way through the city.
The New Zealand trip has included yacht racing, Maori ceremonies involving warriors with tattooed backsides on display and an adrenaline-charged jetboat ride on a lake nestled between the picturesque mountains of Queenstown.
The highlight was undoubtedly a “play date” involving eight-month-old George and 10 local babies of a similar age at Wellington’s Government House, giving the public a rare glimpse of the young royal.
While the event was George’s first-ever official function, beginning a lifetime of public duties, it was conducted in a casual atmosphere as babies crawled all over the floor and the third in line for the throne snatched toys from some of his tiny playmates.
George remained in Wellington with his Spanish nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo for the rest of the stay, but his parents maintained the laid-back style as they made day trips throughout the country, including Kate playing cricket in heels in Christchurch.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said this week that the young royals had “charmed the nation” and he expected the international exposure generated by their visit would boost New Zealand tourism.
“For many, it has been the chance of a lifetime to catch a glimpse of the royal couple,” he said. “I’ve seen first hand how much it has meant to people, young and old, to be part of the generous Kiwi welcome.”
The family arrived in sunny Sydney yesterday to the cheers of thousands of fans as they began their tour of Australia. They were greeted by various dignitaries, including Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, before being whisked off to the city’s famed Opera House.
Crowds of screaming fans, some waving Australian flags, lined the pathway around the Opera House to catch a glimpse of the couple as they walked up the iconic building’s steps. The pair paused briefly to take in the views of the sun-dappled harbor and Harbor Bridge before heading inside for a reception.