Eli Tillemann, 3, knows nothing about this. He does not know that the Target-brand Tyrannosaurus Rex costume (right) he chose after careful consultation with his parents never made it to his home. He does not know that the cardboard UPS box containing said costume was lifted from his doorstep by thieves early Monday morning. He does not know that it took the efforts of his entire neighborhood to transform him into a dinosaur for one evening. He does, however, know the difference between a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a plain dragon.

“The only concern we have is that the substitute costume is technically a dragon,” Eli’s father, Tomicah Tillemann, explains over the phone as the boy’s mother travels by car to inspect a last-minute switcheroo offered up by a neighbor: The Pottery Barn Kids “Dragon Costume” (below).

But the anatomy of the dragon, as any 3-year-old can tell you, deviates from that of the Tyrannasarus Rex in one obvious way. “It has wings,” laments Tillemann, who has already begun devising a plan for explaining away the extra appendages to a suspicious Eli. “If forced, we will explain that the wings are a result of an evolutionary process, but that it is still very much a dinosaur,” he says.

Eli’s parents have tried to keep the explanations to a minimum since they discovered the missing package, now four days overdue. “We have tried to keep it quiet as best we can. He certainly realizes that something is afoot, but he’s not sure what,” says Tillemann. Eli’s parents are not so blissfully unaware. “Needless to say, the news hit his parents like a meteor strike at the end of the Cretaceous period,” says Tillemann.

When they discovered the box missing, Eli’s parents notified the Capitol Hill community Listserv of the theft and implored neighbors to help them restore their son to “Jurassic proportions.” “Unfortunately, the city’s retail establishments seem to have sold out of anything resembling dinosaur outfits, so we’re relying on your collective assistance to save our would-be Tyrannosaurus from extinction,” wrote Tillemann. But this was about more than just a dino costume, he informed the Listserv; this incident could very well shatter young Eli’s entire “faith in the fundamental goodness of humankind.”

Once summoned, Eli’s Capitol Hill community sprung into action. Tillemann says he fielded a “half-dozen” replacement costumes from generous neighbors within a day of posting the notice; after a couple interviews—one with the aforementioned dragon, one with a frog—-Tillemann decided on a costume that is “almost identical” to the original. “The only difference is some polka dots,” says Tillemann.

The dino-thieves who sent the Tillemann family into a frantic search for the toothy disguise, however, are not forgiven. “We continue to view the theft of the original T-Rex outfit as a cold blooded, reptilian assault on all that is good in the world,” Tillemann insists. “However, in the aftermath of this tragedy, we have also been amazed by the decency and goodness of our Capitol Hill neighbors.”

Yesterday evening, Tillemann voiced his gratitude on the neighborhood Listserv. “[D]ue to the efforts of many noble neighbors, our little guy ended up with a magnificent T-Rex costume,” Tillemann wrote. “Our son is delighted. His parents are relieved. And all of our faith in the fundamental goodness of humankind has been restored.”