CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. — Finley Molloy is a really, really good boy.
Finley, a 6-year-old golden retriever, has an affinity for tennis balls — and a special talent when it comes to carrying them around.
With no help from his human family, Finley can carry up to six tennis balls in his mouth at one time. The current Guinness World Record is five (but more on that later).
“The joy he brings to us is one thing,” said his owner, Cheri Molloy. “But he brings joy to people all over the world.”.
It’s a stellar — and sometimes anxiety-inducing — thing to watch: Someone will toss him six balls, and once he knows he’s got six nearby, he’ll start to pick them up.
The first three or four are quick, and he picks those up with ease. But for the fifth and sixth balls, he’ll use his paws to keep them in place when he pops them in his mouth.
By the time he’s got all six in his mouth, his cheeks are stretched wide. Some of the balls he’s only got a single tooth on to keep them from falling out. His tail wags furiously when he knows he’s gotten them all.
Finley lives in Canandaigua, New York, with his “pawrents,” Cheri and Rob Molloy. Their daughter, Erin Molloy, brought him home as a 10-week-old puppy when she was a senior in college.
The Molloy family has had other golden retrievers in the past, but they describe Finley as the best-behaved.
He still has toys from when he was a puppy — slightly crusty from years of slobber, but nonetheless fully intact with their stuffing and squeakers — and never destroys anything when he’s home alone.
When he’s got a captive audience, Finley is focused and adorably persistent.
If he sees someone sitting on the couch, he’ll bring over a toy, drop it in their lap and take a few tiny steps backward.
He’ll look at the toy and then look at them, perking his ears and tilting his head — trying his best to say, politely, that he would very much like if they would throw it for him.
Golden retriever is a ball hog
Finley has always lived up to the classic characteristics of his breed — he lives to play fetch, loves rolling in the grass and has that quintessential goofy demeanor.
When Cheri Molloy takes him to swim at Canandaigua Lake, she’s always sure to bring a tennis ball so they can play fetch in the water. But if Finley happens to see kayakers on the water, he’ll swim out to them with his ball and drop it in the water beside their kayak.
He’s also been known to sneak away to the neighbor’s house and steal balls out of their garage. It doesn’t matter what kind, really — the neighbors report an assortment of missing tennis balls, lacrosse balls, softballs.
And when no one else is around to play with him, he’ll lay in the yard on his back and hold a tennis ball up in the air between his two paws before dropping it into his mouth and catching it.
But it wasn’t until Finley was about 2 years old that his family first noticed his talent.
“I look over and he’s trotting over to me with four tennis balls in his mouth,” Erin Molloy recalled. When Molloy and her dad would toss balls to Finley in their backyard, he began consistently trying to gather as many as he could bring back.
Soon, he was carrying five at once. Then he graduated to six.
Finley’s uncanny ability and quirky personality prompted Erin Molloy to create an Instagram account for him in 2018 (his handle is @FinnyBoyMolloy). He’s now got just under 29,000 followers.
Sharing photos and videos of Finley is something both Erin Molloy and her mom love to do, and they said reading where people say they’re from in the comments is surreal.
They’re still surprised that their dog has followers, not only from all over the U.S., But from places including China, Australia, India and Sweden — just to name a few.
Occasionally, people do leave comments or send messages accusing Finley’s owners of forcing him to perform for them. Erin Molloy or her mom will try to respond and let people know that it is very much something Finley does all on his own.
“He lives the life of a king,” Cheri Molloy said, picking up a plastic squeaky cheeseburger that Finley had dropped in her lap and chucking it across the living room for him. “We’ve never forced him to do any of that.”.
In the process of sharing Finley’s ability with the world, Erin Molloy did some research and realized Finley had the current Guinness World Record holder beat: In 2003, a golden retriever from Texas set the record with five tennis balls.
For the last year or so, Molloy said she’s been communicating with the officials at Guinness World Records, hoping to get Finley recognized as the new record holder.
It’s been a challenging process, with strict requirements about video submissions and witness statements that require repeated attempts, but Finley does it often enough that Molloy said she’s certain they’ll get his achievement formally recognized sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, Finley’s enjoying the practice — regardless of the fame that may or may not come with it.
Follow Georgie Silvarole on Twitter: @gsilvarole.