North Shore Animal League America’s mission statement is simple – Rescue. Nurture. Adopt. Educate. As the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization we promise to do everything in our power to save the lives of as many homeless animals as possible. Whether it’s raising awareness, completing rescue missions across the country and around the world, or helping our four-legged friends find loving homes, we will do whatever it takes.
There are millions of animal lovers out there who make their beloved pets, and all animals for that matter, a top priority. There’s one Port Washington resident who embodies everything Animal League America stands for – Yasuko Yamaguchi.
“I’ve always had compassion for animals, even when I was a little girl in Japan. It lives inside of me,” said Mrs. Yamaguchi, who was appointed to Animal League America’s Board of Directors in 2012. “In 1985 I adopted my first cat from North Shore Animal League America. Her name was Sally and she lived to be 17 years old. She was the first of many I would rescue since moving here. I still hold on to her adoption papers and her collar as a reminder of how special she was.”
In 1968, Mrs. Yamaguchi left Yokohama, Japan to come to the United States of America. Seeking opportunity and the life she became enamored with while indulging in American cinema, she found herself in the heart of the Big Apple. After spending some time in the midst of the hustle and bustle of New York City, Mrs. Yamaguchi decided to make her way out to the flourishing suburbs of Long Island. She first settled in Huntington, but eventually found herself here in the hamlet of Port Washington where she’d permanently plant her roots with her husband, Akira. Fittingly, it would be here, on the North Shore, home of Animal League America, where she and her husband, a sushi chef, would open a highly successful Japanese restaurant, become vital members of a tight-knit community, and make animal welfare a focal part of their lives.
“She is truly a great woman! A successful businesswoman, philanthropist, cat lover supreme, a good friend and a generous supporter of Animal League America,” said the president of the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, John Stevenson. He met the Yamaguchi’s for the first time many years ago at Restaurant Yamaguchi when he asked about a curry rice recipe that he fell in love with.
“That’s a true story. The curry rice is magnificent, and I needed to know what the secret was,” he said with a laugh. “In all seriousness, Mrs. Yamaguchi is a true leader in the Japanese/Asian community and a wonderful asset to our organization. I believe she’s also one of the few people who can compete with me when it comes to rescuing animals and making them my own.”
Since that fateful day 30 years ago when Mrs. Yamaguchi adopted the beautiful gray-coated domestic shorthair, she’s become quite the cat enthusiast. She’s dedicated a large part of her life to rescuing local stray cats and kittens in desperate need of loving homes. Many cats have shown up on her property severely injured and sick but regardless of their condition, Mrs. Yamaguchi will exhaust every option to provide an animal with a second chance. With the help of the top-notch veterinarians at Animal League America’s Lewyt Medical Center, specifically Vice President & Chief of Veterinary Staff, Dr. Mark Verdino, who is always there to examine and care for all of the felines that she rescues, Mrs. Yamaguchi has built her very own cat sanctuary at her house just down the road from Animal League America’s campus.
Currently, she has nine cats she keeps as beloved companions in her house and another three that live outside in her garage, which she transformed into a “cat house.” She even gave the indoor cats traditional Japanese names to officially make them part of the family. Well, almost all of them.
“From oldest to youngest we have Nonko, Miri, Piiko, Chibi, Hide, named after former Yankee Hideki Matsui, Kuroko, Oreo, who is named after the cookie because he’s black and white, Kuma, and Kurokko. Those are all my babies. They can’t talk to me, but I understand them and they understand me,” she said.
Mrs. Yamaguchi’s passion for rescue doesn’t just stop with cats and kittens. Whether its dogs, birds, squirrels, raccoons or any other creature that may wander into her backyard, she will do everything in her power to make sure the animal has an opportunity to live a happy, healthy life.