This story takes place over just a very few weeks one summer. The main character, India Opal Buloni (usually called Opal) has moved to Naomi, Florida with her father (usually called the Preacher). Opal is sad (partly because her mother left them long ago) and lonely.
One day, Opal finds this dog and makes him her own. She calls him Winn-Dixie. The dog helps to break the ice with the people of Naomi such as Miss Franny Block and Gloria Dump. Because she has the dog, she gets to meet more people and gets to be less lonely. She also is able to start talking to her father about her mother and gets to feel like she knows her mom a bit.
Her mom does not come back. Winn-Dixie does not die.