Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 465
Under Opal’s care, Winn-Dixie begins to look more healthy: his bald spots fill in, his fur stays shiny, and he loses his limp. The dog appears proud to look like he belongs to somebody instead of looking like a stray. To complete the look, Opal thinks Winn-Dixie should have a collar and leash, so she goes to Gertrude’s Pets, where there are animals and supplies of all types. She finds a handsome red leather collar and leash that she thinks will be just perfect for Winn-Dixie. But dogs are not allowed inside the pet shop, so Opal holds up the collar and leash to the window so Winn-Dixie can see what she has found. Winn-Dixie smiles, sneezes, and furiously wags his tail at the sight of the collar and leash, and Opal knows he loves them.
But Opal has a big problem—the collar and leash are expensive, and she does not have enough money from her allowance to cover the cost. Opal explains her situation to the clerk, whose name is Otis; she asks him to set her up on an installment plan so she can pay off the collar and leash over the course of the next few weeks. The clerk questions Opal’s plan, and suddenly a parrot perched on top of one of the fish tanks screams out, “Gertrude!” Otis says that he does not think the owner would like the idea of an installment plan, so Opal revises her plan and suggests that she work in the store as payment. Opal sees sand, shells, and dust all over the floor and reckons that Otis could use her help cleaning up the store. The parrot screams again, and Opal tries to convince Otis by explaining to him that she is the daughter of the local preacher. She says she is a very honest girl. Opal then tells Otis that if she were allowed to work in the store, Winn-Dixie would have to come inside also because he gets lonely and howls without her. Otis tells her that Gertrude, the parrot, does not like dogs, to which Opal replies that everyone likes Winn-Dixie. They let Winn-Dixie into the store, and sure enough, the parrot flies over and perches on top of Winn-Dixie’s head. Otis offers Opal the job.
On her way out of the pet store, Opal sees Sweetie Pie Thomas, who has been watching the animals from the store window. Sweetie Pie tells Opal that she also saw what Winn-Dixie did to the mouse at church and claims that she loves the dog and wants one just like him. Sweetie Pie plans to have her sixth birthday party in September, and she invites Opal and Winn-Dixie to come along. Opal is thrilled that she now has another friend.