Kate Middleton

Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton is starting of 2018 with a new furry friend. 

For her first official public engagement of the year, the expectant royal stepped out solo in typical elegant fashion on Wednesday to a crowd of photographers and welcomers, including a throng of young students from the Reach Academy Feltham in London. 

Sporting a chic navy double-breasted coat by Hobbs London with a flared floral print Seraphine dress underneath, Middleton spent some time mingling outside with youngsters from the school and one four-legged companion.

Middleton got a double dose of adorable as she pet 4-year-old puppy Bear, who is being trained by the students to be a therapy dog. As the royal patron of Place2Be, a U.K.-based organization that works to provide mental health services in schools, Middleton spoke to the youngsters about coping with the pressures of social media. 

 

Kate Middleton

Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images

Kate Middleton

Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images

"It can get so addictive as well," she told a group of teenage students. "It becomes part of your lifestyle, doesn't it? It's hard to break away from that, but having the support and learning, the good ways of using social media, because it's great in so many contexts, but it's also being able to sort of monitor your own use of it as well, which is great."

In an effort to combat anxiety and stress, the dog is being trained to help calm students down. For example, kids who are learning to read may feel more at ease reading out loud to Bear than to an adult. 

As the mental health advocated kicked off with a fitting first public engagement of the year, Middleton is also gearing up to welcome her third child in 2018. The year is already off to a great start as she celebrated her 36th birthday in low-key style on Tuesday with the people closest to her heart—her husband, PrinceWilliam and her two children, Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 2.

As a source revealed to E! News at the time, Kate is "celebrating privately with William and the children."

"It's just a quiet celebration at home," our source added. "No big party."

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