Chapter 1 Summary
One summer, the local preacher sends his daughter, India Opal Buloni, to the grocery store to buy macaroni and cheese, white rice, and two tomatoes. Instead, she comes home with a big, ugly dog. Opal (as her father always calls her) goes to the Winn-Dixie grocery store and is walking into the produce section when she nearly bumps into the store manager. He is screaming, waving his arms around, and shouting, “Who let a dirty dog in here?” But when Opal looks around, she does not see a dog; she only sees vegetables rolling around on the floor. As the manager keeps shouting, more and more Winn-Dixie employees join his side and wave their hands around too.
Then the dog comes running around the corner, his tongue hanging out and his tail wagging. The dog skids to a stop and looks up at Opal. She thinks he is smiling as he pulls back his lips, revealing his teeth. The dog gets so happy that he wags his tail hard and knocks a pile of oranges off the display. To the dismay of the manager, the oranges mingle with the vegetables already on the floor, and he calls for someone to remove the dog from the store. But the dog is overjoyed and runs up to the manager to look him in the eye and thank him for the good time in the store. Once the dog is on his hind legs, the manager tumbles to the floor. Exasperated, the manager cries, and out of concern, the dog licks his face.
When the manager asks someone to call the pound to remove the dog, Opal is moved to claim the dog as her own. She tells the manager the dog belongs to her, and all the Winn-Dixie employees stare at her. Opal realizes that she has done something stupid, but she cannot bear to see the dog taken to the pound. The dog looks at Opal, and she makes up a name for him, “Winn-Dixie.” The manager scolds Opal and tells her that dogs do not belong in grocery stores, and Opal promises it will not happen again.
Opal leaves the grocery store with her new dog, Winn-Dixie. Once outside, Opal checks the dog and sees that he is skinny and is missing hair in patches. Then Winn-Dixie smiles his smile again and sneezes. Opal thinks it is hard not to love a dog who has a sense of humor, and she takes Winn-Dixie home to see what her father will make of him.