Because of Winn Dixie (2000) by Kate DiCamillo.
This book makes it onto my list of all time favorite reads, standing up to the likes of Jhumpa Lahiri, Octavia Butler and Haruki Murakami.
Opal lives with her father, the preacher, and has recently moved to a new town. She finds a great friend in a stray dog who she names Winn Dixie. But really it’s all better standing on its own. Read a bit for yourself.
“See,” I said, “you don’t have any family and neither do I. I’ve got the preacher, of course. But I dont’ have a mama. I mean I have one, but I don’t know where she is. She left when I was three years old. I can’t hardly remember her. And I bet you don’t remember your mama much either. So we’re almost like orphans.”
…”You know what?” I said. “Ever since we moved here, I’ve been thinking about my mama extra-extra hard, more than I ever did when I was in Watley.”
Winn-Dixie twitched his ears and raised his eyebrows.
“I think the preacher thinks about my mama all the time, too. He’s still in love with her; I know that because I heard the ladies at the church in Watley talking about him. They said he’s still hoping she’ll come back. But he doesn’t tell me that. He won’t talk to me about her at all. I want to know more about her. But I’m afraid to ask the preacher; I’m afraid he’ll get mad at me.”