RIVER NORTH — “Omg. Omg. Omg. Omg. Omg. Help.”
That's the message my neighbor posted on Facebook attached to a Craigslist ad that read, “Free Baby Pygmy Goat To Good Home.”
“I must have it,” she wrote.
She wasn’t alone.
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people used social media to spread the news about the pygmy-goat named Rufus that desperately needed a new home after someone apparently ratted out the River North man for keeping the pint-sized farm animal in his high-rise apartment.
“I’m really sad to get rid of Rufus and just want him to go to a good home. He’s clean, endless entertainment and even snuggly when he decides to not be a little goat a------,” the post read. “Don’t want a re-homing fee or anything like that, just want a good home for him. Comes with his sweater and harness.”
Pictures of Rufus mugging on a tiny end table and lounging on the floor wearing his red sweater accompanied the post, which asked interested adoptive parents to “call or text Emerick.”
When I called Emerick Corsi he seemed beside himself.
“I got pranked,” he said. “It was my girlfriend. She quite literally got my goat.”
By mid-afternoon on Monday Corsi had been flooded with more than 70 text message and his phone wouldn’t stop ringing.
“It’s insane how many people want the goat,” he said. “But there is no goat. There’s only a funny girlfriend.”
The prankster, college student Julia Westerman, posted the fake for-sale advertisement Sunday night, figuring most people wouldn’t see it until morning.
She was wrong about that.
“It all happened quickly. I was dying, literally crying with laughter sitting by myself at Starbucks,” Westerman said.
People didn’t just want to rescue the fictional Rufus. Some folks wanted to fight the guy who kept a goat in an apartment.
“One guy said he wanted to give me a knuckle sandwich,” Corsi said. “I told him I didn’t have a goat. And he said, ‘Yes, you do. I saw the ad on Craigslist.' ”
When Corsi saw the fake advertisement there were clues that Westerman was involved. First, she’s from Wisconsin, which is where the farm Rufus the fake goat allegedly resided. And on Saturday, he had a strange conversation with Westerman while washing dishes.
“She asked me what I thought about pranks. And I told her that as long as nobody gets hurt or nothing gets destroyed, I think they’re fine,” Corsi said. “She said, ‘Duly noted.’ ”
Westerman, a pre-veterinary medicine student at Aurora University, said she got bored after spending hours studying for final exams and couldn’t help herself.
“I’ve been wanting to start a practical joke war between us for a while,” she said. “I needed something to cheer me up after all the studying so I decided to mess with him.”
She searched the Internet to find the perfect picture of a pygmy goat living indoors and used photos of two different goats with similar markings to make the post seem as legitimate as possible.
Boy, did people take it seriously, Corsi said.
“It’s getting bad, really bad,” he told me Tuesday night hours after Westerman removed the post from Craigslist. “People took screenshots of the ad and posted it on Facebook. Now, it’s making its way through animal rescue websites. I just heard from a woman in Kentucky.”
One text exchange went like something like this:
“I’m very interested in your goat ;),” a stranger texted at 10 a.m.
“Sorry, my girlfriend pranked me. No goat, just a very funny girlfriend,” Corsi wrote back.
“Oh, OK. I don’t want a girlfriend just a goat,” the stranger replied including a frowny face emoji.
“No goat and I’m not willing to part with my girlfriend … unless you have a dirt bike,” Corsi replied. “I would probably part with her for a dirt bike.”
Corsi didn’t hear back about the dirt bike so he’s decided to keep the funny girlfriend.
After all, the practical joke war has just begun.
“I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do, yet. But I know revenge is a dish best served cold,” he said. “So, I’m going to make her wait for it.”
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