NASHVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Although he endures unbearable pain, especially on rainy days, from the four gunshot wounds he sustained in the line of duty on Feb. 4, 2021, Nash County Deputy William Toney is holding up well.

He looks fit, has a warm and personable demeanor and forgiveness in his heart for the man who tried to kill him during a traffic stop on I-95.

Toney, 49, gives a lot of credit for his recovery to this point to his on-the-job partner, Chase, a 7-year-old German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix.

Chase has been with Toney since he was released from the hospital. At the request of Sheriff Keith Stone, the Nash County Board of Commissioners recently voted unanimously to retire Chase and leave him in Toney’s care.

It’s easy to see how Chase, bristling with ready-for-action energy, would be an asset to someone recovering from debilitating injuries. One recent Tuesday morning, Toney brought Chase to the sheriff’s office in Nashville for a photo shoot. The dog exhibited unbridled joy at being back in a familiar haunt where he worked as a K-9 officer alongside Toney.

Chase’s crime-fighting days are over now. He’s got a new job, helping his master have the fullest recovery possible and to prepare for the most fulfilling work he can do outside law enforcement. Toney said Chase has had a little trouble transitioning from a working dog into a pet.

“It’s kind of hard for the working dog to be a pet,” Toney said, explaining that he and Chase sometimes work on the training drills they did together on the job. Although the training is intended to lift Chase’s spirits, Toney said it lifts his also.

In his presentation to the board on Aug. 1, Stone stated, “Throughout his career Chase has been credited with detecting narcotics and apprehending criminals. Additionally, K-9 Chase has performed numerous demonstrations for the public and schools to educate on the functions and abilities of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit.”

Toney said Chase was headstrong and difficult to train when they first started working together four years ago. But the extra time, patience and love that went into making Chase a great police dog also worked to strengthen the bond between them.

In January 2019, Deputy William Toney and K9 Chase visited Deputy Angel Ricks, the staff and students at Red Oak Middles School. K9 Chase carefully walked the entire school property ensuring there was no hidden contraband. (Nash County Sheriff’s Office)

“Our working relationship was a love-hate relationship in the beginning,” Toney said. “He wanted to be the boss. But I knew I had to be the boss. It’s important that a working dog has a leader. But through a lot of work, dedication and affection and loving each other, we developed a bond where he would do anything to make sure I’m OK.”

On days when he feels down, Chase finds a way to lift the clouds of despair with much-needed levity, Toney said.

“We’re inseparable now, he said. “He’s definitely helped me through my injuries. He’s a therapy dog. He’s been really good for me. He picks me up on days when I’m not feeling my best or not being the person who he is used to being around. He keys in on that and he acts silly like he wants to get in my lap (Chase is much too large for that).”

“Deputy William Toney and K-9 Chase were called to assist Deputy Shelby Smith with a vehicle stop on I-95. As Deputy Smith and Deputy Toney attempted to frisk the driver of the vehicle a struggle ensued, at which time the driver pulled a semiautomatic pistol from his waistband and began to fire at Deputy Toney,” Stone said in his presentation to the board.

Toney said he had his hands on the suspect when he was shot twice in his right arm, once in his left arm and once in his right hip. Smith fired numerous times, disabling the Florida man from doing any more harm.

According to Toney, it was roughly 9:30 a.m. when Smith requested Toney to assist with the traffic stop because she detected an odor of marijuana inside the vehicle. Chase, who was inside Toney’s vehicle at the time of the shooting, was not injured.

“I came to do a search and this guy was not complying with us,” he said. “It went downhill after that.”

Toney, who has undergone numerous surgeries, said he still has a bullet lodged in one of his arms. The radius in his right arm was replaced by a metal rod.

He’s lost much of the functionality in his right hand. Once an avid runner, Toney had to find other ways to exercise and stay fit. On rainy days, he said his pain is severe.

“There is so much I can’t do now,” he said.

Toney said he will not be returning to active duty. Part of his retirement process includes undergoing a test at the end of this month to determine his abilities and limitations.

As the interview concluded, Toney was asked if he had any further comments.

“I definitely forgive the guy for the event that happened. I have forgiveness for him. I pray for him,” Toney said, adding that it was fortunate that no one died that day. “Under the circumstances, I feel like God has a plan for all three of us.”