Off Trail by J.B. McDonald
Recently widowed, with one dog now crippled and another about to give birth, Keith needs help. Problem is, he doesn't want it. When Spencer blows into his life, Keith does his best to shove Spencer back out. Spencer is everything his dead husband wasn't, and little too close to the wild side for Keith's taste.
Spencer can see that Keith is drowning in details, just as he can see how a little aid would go a long way. But Keith keeps refusing help -- for everything except the crippled dog. Spencer's way into Keith's house is through fur on wheels; finding his way into Keith's heart won't be so easy.
McDonald does a beautiful job of drawing an overwhelmed and still grieving widower, who has to get a handle on life as it must go on. I really don't know how Keith has survived the previous year without his husband -- nothing could have been one bit easier back in town, except for intact walls and ceilings to keep the elements and wildlife out. He's reached that point of exhaustion where he will keep putting on foot in front of the other because he's too tired to stop, until he drops.
Spencer is a good guy, willing to break that cycle because he sees someone really worthwhile inside Keith's closed off feelings, and he has some great attributes -- I wanted to shake Keith and say "Listen to the man!"
There was a really great turn-about sequence, involving the dogs that are such an overwhelming part of Keith's life, the author clearly understands big dogs, but honestly, while I get why Keith struggled so hard to keep Sam going, it didn't seem fair to anyone, yet, how could he stop once he'd started?
The tone of hopeless exhaustion on Keith's part does go on a while, understandably, but not pleasantly and probably has something to do with why I didn't like it more than I did, and yay for him seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. For all that it isn't pleasant, it's well done, and when the tone lifts, it's all the better.
Buy here for ebook or here for print.