'chuffed' | 

Jenny the donkey’s late trainer will be sending Oscar vibes ‘from above’

Rita says she will be raising a glass tonight to both Mary and the famous donkey as she watches the Oscars

Mary Owens with Jenny the Donkey

Jenny and Colin

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Animal actors company owner Rita Moloney has paid tribute to her late partner Mary Owens as the person who was primarily responsible for training ‘Jenny the donkey’ in Banshees of Inisherin.

And Rita says she will be raising a glass of whiskey tonight to both Mary and the famous donkey as she watches the Oscars.

“Sadly, Mary never got to see the finished film, but she believed in it and liked the script,” she reflects.

“She put a lot of work into it and she would be chuffed. I’m sure she’ll be sending Oscar vibes from above to the cast, and I’ll be raising a glass to both her and Jenny when the show is on.”

Jenny and Colin

Dubliners Rita and Mary both owned the Fircroft Animal Actors centre in Co Kildare and were a couple for 39 years before Mary sadly passed away from cancer at the age of 79 last year.

She says Banshees director/writer Martin McDonagh initially fell in love with miniature donkey Jenny, when he saw her in Co Wicklow, and asked the couple to train her for the movie.

The animal was moved to their centre nearly a year before the film went into production.

“She was here for eight months and then we had three weeks pre-production with her on Inishmore,” she recalls.

“Mary was the main person who trained her, before she took ill that June. On medical advice she had to take a step back and we had to bring in someone else for the actual filming to help (Megan Hines).”

She reveals that Mary’s daughter was responsible for the dog Sammy used in the film by Brendan Gleeson’s character.

“We had to acclimatise Jenny being around dogs and introducing to her to Morse (Sammy’s real name) because they wouldn’t naturally be friends, one would be fearful of the other,” she points out.

Rita continued to be involved in coordinating the animals on the film, while Mary convalescing.

She said the couple got into supplying animals to various RTÉ shows and commercials nearly 40 years ago, initially on Youngline when they wanted a studio dog and used Mary’s collie.

They later supplied another dog for Murphy’s Stout, before a dog they owned was used on Fair City.

“We all came from a competition that we used to do with our dogs, so it was all about precision work.

"People call them tricks, but we train them to do things on command and on cue to send them away, to hit a mark, to retrieve something, to recall, to sit and lie down, or bark on command, and it grew legs,” she explains.

Jenny is now ‘retired’ and living with other donkeys at a secret location.

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