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Opal and the preacher moved to Naomi, Florida, so the preacher could preach at the Open Arms Baptist Church of Naomi. Hey, that's a nice name for a church! Very welcoming. We suspect this is going to be significant.
Here's the thing about her dad: he's a good man and a good preacher, but he's not much of a dad because he's a preach-a-holic. Oh, and her unusual first name (India)? That's because of the preacher's missionary work there, but he calls her Opal because that was her grandma's name.
She tells all this history to Winn-Dixie on their walk home. She hopes the preacher will cave and let her keep Winn-Dixie because he's a "suffering dog," and the preacher cares a lot about "suffering people" (2.3, 2.2). That's got to count for something, right?
Winn-Dixie seems to understand this. Although he stinks worse than Pumbaa after a garlic and anchovy pizza, Opal can't help loving the ugly mutt.
Opal also gives Winn-Dixie the scoop about the Friendly Corners Trailer Park where she lives. It's an adult-only community, but she's allowed to be there as an "exception" (2.5).
This means he better behave like a good little exception if he wants to stay. Winn-Dixie acts like he understands and even sits when Opal tells him to.
Opal goes inside alone to break the news to the preacher. She softens the blow with a spoonful of piping hot guilt, no sugar added—"you know how you always tell me that we should help those less fortunate"— which she hopes will help her news go down (2.10).
She tells the preacher that she found a Less Fortunate and wants him to crash at their place.
This catches the preacher's attention, but when Opal tells him it's a dog, he refuses: no dogs.
Opal won't take no for an answer and calls in Winn-Dixie, who promptly smiles, sneezes, and plops his head right into the preacher's lap.
That crazy dog looks right at the preacher, smiles with all his teeth, sneezes, and wags his tail, and … yeah, you know what happens. He scratches Winn-Dixie's head and tells him he's found himself a home.