Another aspect of Because of Winn-Dixie that takes the viewers out of the standard family is inclusion of animals into the family. Originally, animals were not included as family members, but rather as just pets that kept the family company. However, as time goes on, pets become more and more like family members. Some popular motion pictures that have also included animals into the family are as follows: Lassie Come Home (1943), Old Yeller (1957), Benji (1974), Beethoven (1992) and Marley and Me (2008).
Animals in the motion picture, Because of Winn-Dixie, play a very important part of the storyline. A stray dog is found inside of the food market Winn-Dixie, destroying displays and scattering food throughout the aisles. Opal, a young and lonely girl, just moved to the rather quiet fictional town of Naomi, Florida. Opal’s father known as “the preacher” is a single parent to Opal, as her mother abandoned the two of them seven years ago. Opal sees the dog inside the grocery store, and immediately wants to take him home, so she claims that he belongs to her and accepts responsibility for his rambunctious behavior.
Opal wanted company, as she had moved around so often in her young life. She has her father, but she has a hard time relating to him since he does not seem to understand her need for companionship. “Opal describes the preacher as a turtle, always sticking his head into his turtle shell, and never wanting to come out into the real world” (wiki) Winn-Dixie’s presence provides Opal with an extended family of sorts.
In Family Process, a peer-reviewed journal, the author Dr. Froma Walsh states, “Companion animals have become increasingly important in family life. More than 85% of pet owners regard their pets as family members (Cohen, 2002). Many treat them as ‘‘full members’’ of the family, as important as other members. Some feel closest to their pet. Indeed, in a national survey 57% of respondents, if stranded on a desert island with only one companion, would choose their family pet.” (Walsh 1) Opal and Winn-Dixie are great examples of this. Opal loves her father, but she has a hard time relating to him. She finds herself closer to her newfound family member rather than her dad. At the end of the movie, when Winn-Dixie’s fear of thunder gets the best of him and he runs away, Opal becomes inconsolable and she and her father go out and search the town looking for him.