My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice and two tomatoes, and I came back with a dog.
This summer. In a town where she had no friends, where she had to start over and make new ones.
Beginning with a stray dog, ribs showing, smelling quite bad, but running all over the grocery store, Winn-Dixie, and knocking over the tomatoes and onions and oranges. He pulled back his lips and showed Opal all his teeth - his trademark smile.
The manager threatened to call the pound and that's when Opal stepped in and claimed it as her dog. Her dog ... um ... Winn-Dixie. (She named the dog after the grocery store? Yep. First thing that popped into her head. Can't be choosy when you're fighting against time, and a frustrated store manager.)
This summer, Opal and Winn-Dixie, both outsiders unconsciously finding a way into the town's heart, start making friends through listening to stories. Their stories.
The nice librarian who once served a bear at her library. (Her other story involved The Civil War, and lozenges.)
The melancholy man who sang to the animals at the pet store he worked in. (His story involved going to jail.)
The girl with a pinched look on her face. (Hers, though not told directly, involved a brother.)
And an old lady with failing eyesight. (Hers involved a 'mistake tree' and alcohol bottles.)
Bit by bit, we also get to hear about Opal's mother's story. Often, sweet and sad things go together. This summer, Opal learned how to connect with new people while making peace with missing her mother.
All because of Winn-Dixie.
Pets are family. They probably can't change your life but they can make it a whole lot better, turn things around or wait with you for the hurt to pass. I've had two cats, both strays. One made me feel that there was someone on my side when things didn't go well, and the other made me feel I am capable, absolutely capable, of an extra mile of kindness. Pets, like children, are precious.
Ever had pets who made things a lot better for you or waited through bad times with you?