By Billie Johnson


Sometimes a coincidence will sneak up on you like a crush. Other times a coincidence can simply crush you.

This past week, I had a checkup for my allergies and asthma. I was diagnosed with both before kindergarten and I used to keep tabs on my inhaler like my present day smart phone.  Lifelong, I’ve only had two asthma-induced ER visits. For the most part, mine is a mild case of asthma. Now I keep track of my phone better than my inhaler.

As I was scurrying to make my 8 a.m. appointment, I reached for my perfume. Or cologne. Heck. It’s supposed to be a gender-neutral scent, so I don’t know what it’s called. Whatever. This is so beside the point. As I reached for my foo-foo fragrance, I stopped. I recalled many of the faceless patients in the office waiting rooms of appointments past. I didn’t want to further aggravate pulmonary conditions of anyone who might be on oxygen or in respiratory distress. I also didn’t want a lecture from the doctor about perfumes and allergies, but mostly it was worrying about others that led to my day of mere shower freshness.

As I completed my morning hair-spiking and tooth brushing—I didn’t floss because I don’t see the dentist for at least three months— I thought of my friend Dottie and a column I wrote last October called “I can wear perfume to church again.”

In that piece, I talked about this quintessential sweet little old lady in the congregation who had just moved away to Arizona. Dottie had been on oxygen, and when I realized that she would have her big, green tank with her each week, I quit wearing perfume to church so I wouldn’t exacerbate her difficulty breathing. Upon her leaving, I just couldn’t bring myself to spray a spritz so soon after her departure.

Since that writing last October, I received a flowery card from Dottie and a friend request from her on Facebook.  Our most significant exchange over the last year occurred after I posted a picture of my labradoodle Bob in his custom-made cow suit. She messaged a plea to explain the cow suits and my Cow Suit Saturday blog. After I explained that it’s about embracing whimsy and recording people’s reactions, we talked about how darned handsome Bob is. Even in his ridiculous cow suit, my dog Bob is the bomb.

With Dottie on my mind, my asthma appointment was pleasantly uneventful. I had the usual breathing tests where I exhale with force until my lungs are empty and I see how far I can move the digital needle. I’m less competitive than I used to be with the process, but I was still curious about my performance. I mean results. I still wheeze. I still need an inhaler and I’m still not getting rid of Bob or any of my other animal allergens because I’m stubborn and I love them.

Before I left, I got a breathing treatment and was all set for my day. When I went home at lunch to let Bob and the others out to potty, my phone dinged with an alert.

Dottie passed away.

Whooosh. And my lungs were empty again. I had known that she wasn’t doing well, but what a coincidence. I was just thinking about her. I was crushed.

One Sunday before Dottie moved away she was kneeling in the communion line ahead of me. She was getting out of her kneel to return to her seat, when I noticed her start to stumble. I happened to be the one standing there to prevent her fall and offer a little support. We were fast friends after that.

I won’t be wearing perfume to church this weekend, but by golly, I’m going to wear my cow suit. (Not to church!) Dottie got a kick out of my cow suit escapades.

Pocatello’s last fun run of their series is this weekend. The cows, some friends and I in cow suits, will be on the route for a commemorative Cow Suit Saturday in Dottie’s memory. We will yell and cheer for the runners and walkers and offer a little support. With my asthma under control, I ought to be entering the run, but I’d much rather cheer.  Run fast, friends and if you’re aiming for a personal best, crush it.